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Jallikatu Protest in Chennai- In Retrospect and Prospects


Jallikattu also known as eru thazhuvuthal and manju virattu is a bull taming sport during Pongal in Tamilnadu whose evidence was mentioned even in Sangam literature.

Controversy originated when central government added bull to the prohibited list of animals which cannot be trained for entertainment. SC upheld this decision in 2012.

Recently there were large scale demonstrations against the ban in TN especially in Chennai from all sections of people.

Arguments in favor:

  1. Safeguarding cultural traditions which are guaranteed under Art 25 of the constitution
  2. Because of the practice many bulls are been taken care properly which would have turned into beef otherwise

Arguments against:

  1. Cruelty to bulls in training them for the sport
  2. Unsafe conditions during sport may sometimes lead to injury/loss of human lives

Situation is result of lack of effort from both state and central governments to saturate the issue at the earliest. After 2012, state government did not take sufficient measures to lift the ban. When the protests reached its peak, it hurriedly passed an ordinance against SC's ruling, which did not satisfy the protesters who could realize that ordinance valid for 6 months is only a temporary solution. Though Animal Welfare Board of India confirmed it is not going to challenge the ordinance by TN government, chances are very high that PCA may challenge it which might trigger the protests and start the problem all over.

Instead of making sure that the protests did not turn violent, government ordered the police to use force to evacuate people from Marina beach to make preparations for republic day. Instead of using the opportunity for constructive criticism, opposition also sought to aid the protests for it's political advantage.

What is more disturbing is the fact that there were anti national activities and slogans by supporters of LTTE. All this shows a clear lack of governance and strong leadership.

But the protests show a larger picture than just against banning Jallikattu.

Tamil Nadu has always been against the domination from North India in all aspects starting from demand in constituent assembly to block Hindi as national language to Dravida movement which reached its peak during 1960s to recent opposition to GST. Later because of strong leadership provided by DMK and AIADMK heads and state's ability to pioneer in many social welfare schemes, the movement got saturated to some extent. Again the insecurity started rising because of political vacuum created by the death of AIADMK leader Ms. J. Jayalalitha , DMK leader Karunanidhi's prolonged illness.

Other reasons: Because of various economic problems among youth, governments not had been able to provide sufficient relief to recent floods, TN's ever growing water crisis and center's attitude towards resolving Kaveri river water dispute between TN and KA.

So the frustrated youth and middle class especially, fed up with in-efficient governance and insecurity caused by political vacuum participated in the protests in large scale.

Way ahead:

  1. Though SC's ruling was over ridden previously in some cases (ex: Shahbano by Rajiv Gandhi) the practice should be avoided at large by governments. Instead a consensus building mechanism should be prepared from all the sides concerned
  2. All governments should show strong leadership by adhering to law of the land. Even if succumbing to pressure gives short term benefits, people start losing confidence in the executive in the long run (as has happened in Nagaland recently)
  3. Making ordinances to override central laws or SC judgments should be is against constitutional values. It might encourage other states also to follow (Ex: KA government also issued an order lifting the ban on Kambala (buffalo race))
  4. The executive should try to get the nerve of protesters at the earliest and try to initiate dialogue instead of using force which might increase the violence at later stage
  5. Opposition parties should support what is best for the population at large but not take political advantage and worsening the situation
  6. SC should refer all such matters where a conflict between fundamental rights and other laws arises to a constitutional bench for permanent solution
  7. This kind of incidents can be avoided by sustainable economic development and inclusive growth

- Anusha Kolli