Tamil Nadu stand on Jallikattu wrong

The Central government should not cave in to Tamil Nadu’s demands for an ordinance permitting the practice of Jallikattu during Pongal this year. Its practice was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014 for a good reason. An ordinance lifting this ban would amount to subverting a well-considered decision of the apex court, even undermining its stature. In his letter to the Centre, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Paneerselvam has justified the need for such an ordinance because it enjoys a “groundswell of sentiment and support.” Indeed, Jallikattu is a popular sport in Tamil Nadu. Many support its practice on the ground that it is “an age-old Tamil tradition” that must be upheld, one that is an inherent part of Pongal festivities.

However, Jallikattu, which is a form of bull fight, is a bloody and brutal practice. In the past, it was a way of taming a wild bull. It was a contest between a single man and a single bull. In more recent decades, it has become a blood sport, where scores of men wrestle down a single bull and thousands of others cheer the torture. Prizes are tied to the bull’s horns and tail. Men are known to tear off the bull’s body parts in their bid to win the prize and use sticks and cleavers to ‘tame’ the animal. Chilli powder is often sprayed on the bull to enrage it in order to improve the ‘entertainment value’ of the ‘sport.’ Jallikattu celebrates violence, even sadism of the worst kind. The apex court did well to end its practice. It must ensure that governments at the Centre and state enforce the ban. In the run-up to Pongal last year, the Narendra Modi government issued a notification reversing the Supreme Court ban. With Assembly elections looming and given the fact that all political parties in Tamil Nadu backed Jallikattu, the BJP-led government at the Centre did not want to draw voters’ ire in Tamil Nadu; hence, the decision to issue a notification allowing Jallikattu. Fortunately, the court overturned that notification. Hopefully, the Modi government will not go down that path this year too.

Upholding tradition is fine so long as it does not harm anyone. Clearly, Jallikattu
does not fall in that category. It brings out the worst in us, forces us to act in ways that are barbaric, beastly and at best sub-human. Rather than bat for revival of its practice, the Tamil Nadu government should be acting to enforce the Supreme Court ban. It should be educating the masses to create awareness on the barbarity of jallikattu. There can be no room for torture, whether of humans or animals’ in a civilised society.

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