The protests over People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) stand on Jallikattu that have taken over the State of of Tamil Nadu have stretched its arms to Pune, with supporters flocking to the city’s streets on Saturday. The Chakan area saw several hundred protesters expressing their displeasure of PETA’s interference in the traditional practice.
Focusing on the importance of cultural sensitivity in such issues and expressing displeasure over the government’s decision, the leader of the protest at Chakan, Ramkrishna Takalkar of Takalkarwadi said to the Indian Express, “We love our animals. We can’t think of treating them cruelly. We take great care of them. But PETA, which is an American organisation, is charging us with ill-informed allegations. They don’t know our culture.” Takalkar, who owns bulls that participate in races, added that this decision could directly affect the lives of farmers.
Jalikkattu brings opportunities for small farmers from the dry regions of Maan in Satara and Jat, Khanapur in Sangli districts who rear Khilar breed of bulls. These bulls are sold to the owners of racing carts. The price may range between Rs 20,000 and Rs one lakh, based on the quality of animals. Income from this serves as an additional economic leverage to several families of the arid regions.
In Pune especially, special care is taken so as to not harm the animals. In an effort to ensure that the animals are not victims of any form of physical abuse, no person is allowed to ride on the carts. The bulls are given a free run, reflects Takalkar.
While the controversy surrounding the bull-taming sport, Jallikattu emerged 10 years ago, the ethnic sport which was banned recently has been acquiring quite the limelight, dividing people into opposite ends of the scale. With proponents of the sport tagging it an intrinsic part of tradition, correlating the sport with religion, the hypocrisy behind the justification is nothing starkly existent.
An affidavit filed in the Supreme Court by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change tried to rationalize the cruel sport, by tagging it a ‘centuries-old-custom’. Though this defence was met with a fitting response from the court comparing the scenario to that of child marriage (“There were 8,000-odd child marriages in 1899. Should we continue with it?” retorted the two-member bench earlier this month), the thought that goes behind the preposterous argument is problematic.
“… an animal is not a human being, and what may be cruelty to a human, cannot be always regarded as cruelty to animals,” the affidavit proclaimed. Is the incessant force-feeding of alcohol not considered cruelty? Or are the stud-bulls tolerant enough to readily take the chilli powder thrown at them?
Some validations also go to the extent of labelling the ban a grave danger to the native bull breeds. While it is rumoured that farmers cannot afford to retain these bulls if not for the sport, reports claim that each village has a common bull which is used to reproduce.
With facetious defences and exaggerated accounts masking the tormenting bull-fighting sport as a harmless form of entertainment, it is high time the pretence is shed.
The Supreme Court on Monday stayed Central Government decision to lift the ban on Tamil Nadu’s traditional bull-taming sport Jallikattu due to a clutch of petitions by animal rights activists and groups opposing the decision.
The bench led by Justice Deepak Misra also issued notices to the BJP-led Centre and all the other state governments Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) seeking a clamp down of the Centre’s notification and demanded their replies within one month.
Expressing her displeasure at the verdict, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the concerns of the people of Tamil Nadu by stating that in many rural areas preparations are underway and hoped that the Supreme Court would respect the feelings and sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu.
She insisted that the Prime Minister should immediately promulgate an ordinance to ensure the smooth conduction of Jallikattu during the Pongal festival which is to start on January 14.
With the harvesting season just a few days away, the Center on Friday lifted the ban on Jallikattu (bull taming) this year. The ban was lifted by a notification from the Environment Minister, Prakash Javadekar, which states that bulls can be used and trained for the sport and also be exhibited during festivals for performing.
The notification also lifts the ban from other bull related sports which are practiced traditionally in Tamil Nadu and places like Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat. The notice also specifies that, “In case of Jallikattu, the moment the bull leaves the enclosure; it shall be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metre.”
However, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has told that they will be going against the Center’s order and will contest it with immediate effect. The AWBI Chairman told TOI, “We are disappointed that the government has ridden roughshod over such explicit directions of the Supreme Court.”
The sudden act by the Center came due to pressure from several politicians in Tamil Nadu including a letter from the CM, J. Jayalalithaa to the Prime Minister to allow the traditional practice to happen during Pongal.