Jallikattu is the Tamil Nadu's bull taming sports mainly practised as a part of Pongal festival, which is the state's harvest festival.
Historians believes that it is a Dravidian tradition practised about 4000 years ago during the Indus valley civilisation, which is further proved by the discovery of a seal in the MOHENJO-DARO in the 1930s depicting the practice. The ancient people group called the Aayars who lived in the Mullai area of Tamil nadu is often credited for popularising this sport.
In this sport of Jallikattu, the bull is released into a crowd of people and the participants' tries to grab the hump of the bull and hang onto it while the bull attempts to escape. The participant who could grab the hump for the longest time is awarded as the winner. However rules vary from place to place depending on certain traditions of various communities. It is also known by names such as Manju Virattu and Eru Thazuvuthal.
Many of the country's organisations such as People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation (FIAPO) and Animal Welfare Board (AWB) has been continuously protesting against the practice of Jallikattu alleging that to aggravate the bull it is given alcohol and also chilli peppers are rubbed in the eyes, which is the extreme level of exhibiting cruelties to animals.
The Animals welfare board filed a case in the Supreme Court on 2010 for the ban of Jallikattu because of the cruelty to animals and threat to public safety.
On 27 Nov, 2010, the Supreme Court on its verdict permitted the government of Tamilnadu to allow Jallikattu but only for 5 months in a year. It also directed the district collectors to make sure that the animals participating in the festival are registered with the Animals Welfare Board, and asked AWB to monitor the event.
The Ministry of environment and Forests issued a notification in 2011 that banned the use of bulls as performing animals but still it was continued to be held under the Tamilnadu regulation of Jallikattu act 2009 which allows the state to practice this sport without any outer hindrances.
When this issue was challenged in the supreme court, the supreme court on its verdict on 7 may 2014 that struck down the Jallikattu and also ordered that if anyone practises it will be imposed heavy penalty for cruelty of animals under the Prevention of Cruelty Animals Act 1960.
On 8 January 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forests permitted the continuation of the tradition under certain conditions, effectively ending the ban. However, on 14 January 2016, the Supreme Court of India issued a stay on this order, upholding the ban, after a petition filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA India, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court refused to review its decision on 26 July 2016.
On the early of January 2017, the centre decided to overturn the judgement of Supreme Court and so the Environment Ministry issued a notification that says that it will allow this sport to be celebrated during the Pongal festival this year.
The government answers that the main reason behind the issuance of the notification is that People's widespread protest in many parts of India to lift the ban on Jallikattu. However experts and opposition leaders argues that this step was a clear political move by the BJP government to win hearts of the people in the coming Legislative elections in Tamilnadu in April.
The legal situation surrounding jallikattu is as yet not clearly resolved. The matter will only be truly resolved if the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) is amended by the Parliament because State ordinances and state laws cannot overrule an Indian federal law. It will be interesting to see how old traditions and cultures are revisited and check if they are in violation of the laws of the land, and if yes a change for it.
- TRISIDDHA NATH