The Centre on Friday allowed the popular but controversial bull-taming sport Jallikattu to be held in poll-bound Tamil Nadu, overriding protests from animal rights activists following a strong political push for the banned traditional event.
People in the state cheered and bursts crackers welcoming the move but activists said the government’s decision -- in contravention of a 2014 Supreme Court ban disallowing use of bulls as performing animals -- was aimed at strengthening the BJP’s foothold in the state where it does not have much of a presence.
Less than a week before the Pongal festivities in the state that goes to elections this year, the ministry of environment and forest issued a notification allowing Jallikattu and bullock cart races in some states despite the law ministry and attorney general Mukul Rohtagi’s contention that lifting the ban would be a violation of the apex court’s order.
“What we have allowed is with proper safeguards and (while) ensuring that there is no cruelty (meted out) to animals. Cultural and historical practices of the communities are being allowed with many restrictions,” environment minister Prakash Javadekar said.
Thousands of people erupted in joy, especially in Palamedu in Madurai and Tiruchirapalli that host the event, as they broke into song and dance in public, flashing victory signs. The new guidelines came after a massive campaign by farmers associations, villagers and a host of cultural and social organisations, which was backed by all political parties.
Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa recently wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi backing the sport, which wasn’t held last year for the first time in decades.
“Thank our PM for facilitating this to happen. I thank everyone who supported Jallikattu,” said Pon Radhakrishnan, Union minister of state for roadways and senior BJP leader from the state. Animal rights activists, who said the new notification would not stand the scrutiny court of law, vowed to challenge the Centre’s decision.
“We would take whatever action is legally possible,” Animal Welfare Board of India vice-chairman Chinny Krishna said. The Chennai head-quartered AWBI is a statutory and advisory body of the government of India.
Other animal rights activists are also up in arms over the decision that they vow to fight in the Supreme Court.
People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) slammed the decision to permit events like Jallikattu and bull races and said the U-turn in allowing the events is being seen even by BJP supporters as “reckless, heartless and weak”.
Peta India CEO Poorva Joshipura said in a statement that “lifting the protection against cruelty that was afforded to bulls is a black mark on our nation, which has always been looked up to by people around the world for our cultural reverence for animals.”