Jallikattu – The Pride of Tamil Culture:
Jallikattu (or Sallikkattu), also known as Eru thazhuvuthal and Manju virattu, is a traditional sport in which a Bos indicus bull, commonly of the Kangayam breed, is released into a crowd of people. Multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump of the bull with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape. Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull’s horns.
Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BC). It was common among the ancient people Aayars who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. Later, it became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A cave painting in white kaolin discovered near Madurai depicting a lone man trying to control a bull is estimated to be about 2,500 years old.
The Animal Welfare Board of India filed a case in the Supreme Court of India for an outright ban on Jallikattu because of the cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety involved.
Ban on Jallikattu:
On 27 November 2010, the Supreme Court permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to allow Jallikattu for five months in a year and directed the District Collectors to make sure that the animals that participate in Jallikattu are registered to the Animal Welfare Board and in return the Board would send its representative to monitor the event.
The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification in 2011 that banned the use of bulls as performing animals, thereby banning the event But the practice continued to be held under Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009. On 7 May 2014, the Supreme Court of India struck down the state law and banned Jallikattu altogether. The Supreme Court noted that any flouting of the ban should result in penalties for cruelty to animals under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The court also asked the Government of India to amend the law on preventing cruelty to animals to bring bulls within its ambit.
In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned the practice, citing animal welfare issues. On 8 January 2016, the Government of India passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls can not be used, effectively reversing the ban. However, on 14 January 2016, the Supreme Court of India upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.
Protest against Ban:
Last year, on 8 January 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forests permitted the continuation of the tradition under certain conditions, effectively ending the ban; however, this was overturned by the Supreme Court on 26 July.
On 16 January 2016, the World Youth Organization (WYO) protested at Chennai against the stay on ban on conducting Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. The WYO also demanded a ban on PETA in India.
On 8 January 2017, some anonymous groups conducted a well organized rally at Chennai Marina opposing the ban on Jallikattu. The participants walked from the lighthouse to labour statue bearing posters saying ‘save Jallikattu’. It is reported that there were hundreds of participants in the rally. Given the well-planned nature nature of the agitations its vivid that several Christian NGOs are involved in fueling the agitation among the public. Intelligence officials had concluded that the Church, NGOs and various evangelist organisations and even Islamic organizations are funding and aiding this ban. few Churches openly conducted prayer mass and rally against the Supreme Court ruling. Following the protests at Chennai, many students started rallies in various towns of Tamil Nadu.
After hearing the petitions which were led by the Animal Welfare Board of India challenging central government’s notification, the Supreme Court of India on 12 January ordered a stay, issued notices to the central government and the government of Tamil Nadu and later refused to lift the stay. Numerous Jallikattu events were held across Tamil Nadu in protest of the ban, and hundreds of participants were detained by police in response. The Supreme Court has agreed to delay its verdict on Jallikattu for a week following the Centre’s request that doing so would avoid unrest. The Attorney General Mukul Rahotgi informed the Supreme Court bench that the people of Tamil Nadu were “passionate” about Jallikattu and that the issue was being resolved between the Centre and the State government.