Tamil Nadu governor C Vidyasagar Rao’s approval for a state government ordinance that circumvents a Supreme Court ban on Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport, appears to have given a licence to communities across the country to seek legal sanction for their own outlawed regional celebrations. On Tuesday, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah demanded that his state wants to lift the ban on Kambala, the traditional buffalo race that involves racing pairs of buffaloes across slushy paddy fields. The Karnataka High Court had granted an interim stay in November 2016 against holding Kambala events, following a petition by animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Animal rights activists say farmers use whips against their livestock, and this amounts to cruelty. But emboldened by the people’s protest in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, members of the Kambala organising committee say they’ll host the race on January 28.
Siddaramiah is not the only politician trying to rouse populist sentiments in seeking to lift bans on sports that involve cruelty to animals and birds. In Andhra Pradesh, BJP leader KR Krishnam Raju has moved the Supreme Court to contest the ban on Kodipandem, an outlawed festival in which roosters, with sharp blades attached to their feet, fight to the death before crowds. Andhra has impleaded itself in the Jallikattu case, requesting that the ordinance be applicable even to cockfights. In his demand, Raju has found an unlikely ally in actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan. In Punjab, the Jallikattu ordinance has prompted the organisers of the Kila Raipur rural Olympics, to move the Supreme Court to revisit its 2014 order that banned bullock cart aces and in Maharashtra the Shiv Sena has joined the chorus, demanding that chief minister Devendra Devendra Fadnavis talk to Prime Mnister Narendra Modi to bring an ordinance that circumvents the ban on bullock cart races. When it comes to invoking traditional pride if it can be called that, politicians across regions appear to be birds of a feather. In Assam, the demand to lift the government’s ban on bulbuli sorair jooj, the annual bird fight held during the Magh Bihu festival, has assumed a shrill tone following the return of Jallikattu.
Under pressure from protesters, the Tamil Nadu government has overruled the reservations of animal rights activists who contend that the festival is in contravention of the 12 conditions that the Supreme Court laid down in 2008 to continue Jallikattu. More than that a wrong message is going out that if they protest violently and long enough, people can overturn animal rights laws. This should be unacceptable in any civilised society and serves no purpose other than whet an appetite for blood sport.