The ‘Jallikattu’, the popular bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu may come back shortly. According to newspaper reports, Mr Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment has assured the people of Tamil Nadu on 17th June 2015, that the Government of India will take steps to get the ban lifted or even amend laws for the smooth conduct of the sport of valour- ‘Jallikattu’.
The Supreme Court of India banned ‘Jallikattu’ of Tamil Nadu and and bullock cart racing in Maharashtra on 7th May 2014. It gave directions to the governments and Animal Welfare Board of India to intervene so as no animal is subjected to unnecessary pain or suffering. The court observed that ‘even bulls have rights against torture’. Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Pinaki Chandra Misra said ”forcing a bull and keeping it in the waiting area for hours and subjecting it to the scorching sun is not for the animal’s well-being” in their judgement.
The court also observed that “forcing and pulling the bull by a nose rope into the narrow, closed enclosure, subjecting it to all forms of torture, fear, pain and suffering by forcing it to go the arena and also over-powering it in the arena by bull tamers, are not for the well-being of the animal”. The court found that “being dumb and helpless, they (bulls) suffer in silence”. The court took note of the details submitted by the Animal welfare Board of India on the conduct of the ‘Jallikattu’.
There were wide protests in Tamil Nadu against the order of the apex court. Some protesters from ‘Nam Tamizhar Katchi’ workers were arrested in January this year when they tried to block the Thiruchi- Manamadurai train. They alleged that the order of the apex court has taken away the spirit of the ‘Pongal’ festival of Tamilnadu.
Sensing the mood of the public and succumbing to the pressure from different groups pleading for the lift of the ban, the Government of Tamil Nadu has also moved in. They wanted the notification of the Union Environment Ministry of 2011 banning the use of bulls as performing animals withdrawn. This notification was issued under section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. Government of Tamil Nadu had already filed a review petition with the Supreme Court against the order. Since 2009, the ‘Jallikattu’ are performed observing the strict guidelines issued by the state government to prevent casualties and injuries to both humans and animals.
‘Jallikattu’ was part and parcel of the four day ‘Pongal’ festival of Tamil Nadu usually celebrated by mid-January every year and there are many styles and conventions. In Trichy, Puducottai, Dindigul, the bulls dashing on to the arena are to be controlled by holding the humps and the fighters are to run 100-200 feet before they are declared winners.
The most risky type of the traditional sport are practiced in Madurai and Sivaganga districts where the free roaming bulls are to be overpowered by the fighters by any means and a lot of accidents and injuries were reported.The third style is regarded as the most safe one wherein the bulls are secured by some 15 metres rope and they have to be overpowered by the fighters.
The protests against ‘Jallikattu’ by animal welfare organizations and regulations imposed by the state government could bring down the number of ‘Jallikattu’ performances. During the ‘Pongal’ of 2014, the game was reported to be held in only 13 places of Tamil Nadu. Though some 400 bulls were used in those games, only very few injuries were reported .
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