Sinking their political differences, several parties in Tamil Nadu have come together to demand rollback of a ban on the traditional sport of ‘jallikattu’, the Indian version of the Spanish spectator sport bull-fighting.
The Supreme Court had banned the sport along with bullock cart racing last year on the ground that jallikattu – which translates to taming the bull – involved cruelty to the animals in the sport.
But with less than a month to go for the harvest festival of Pongal – the season for the highly popular sport – leaders like MK Stalin of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have threatened to stage protests unless the sport is allowed.
Stalin has said he would sit on a day-long hunger strike in Madurai on December 28 to press for the demand.
Several Communist parties have also made common cause with Stalin, seeking a revocation of the ban.
In August this year, chief minister J Jayalalithaa had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to facilitate the conduct of ‘jallikattu’. In a memorandum, she had suggested that the Union ministry of environment and forests could denotify bulls from the list of performing animals, within the legal ambit to enable the lifting of the ban on jallikattu.
She also called for suitable amendments in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by introducing a new clause specifically exempting jallikattu along with other exemptions already provided in the Act.
The Supreme Court had banned jallikattu, bull races, bull-fights and other uses of bulls in performances. However, there have been several demands in the state, especially in the southern districts that the Centre make necessary amendments to concerned laws to ensure that the sport is introduced again in 2016.
Supporters of jallikattu defend the sport, saying it is a sport of valour and is reflective of the local tradition.
However, there is a swathe of support favouring continuance of the ban on the sport. Several celebrities, including actress Vidya Balan and Indian cricket team’s Test captain and star bastman Virat Kohli, had signed a petition by an animal rights advocacy group seeking upholding of the ban on jallikattu.
Also, actress Amy Jackson supported the ban, triggering calls by the sport’s enthusiasts for her removal from the ongoing Tamil film Enthiran 2.0 starring Rajnikaanth.
Jallikattu fans say the sport is a “tribute to Almighty” and blame recent disasters like the recent floods in Chennai, in which hundreds of people lost their lives and many others were left homeless, to the sport’s discontinuation following the court ban.
“God is angry for not conducting jallikattu and people are paying the price,” M Mariappan, a resident of Alanganallur said.
Locals say jallikattu is a major draw on Maatu Pongal day (the day after the harvest festival) in various parts of Tamil Nadu.
Incidentally elections to the Tamil Nadu state assembly are due in 2016 and political parties are eyeing to stay on the right side of popular sentiments.