Before polls, legalization of bullfighting back on agenda in Goa
Goa’s long pending demand for legalization of bullfights is back on the agenda as parties seek to outdo each other in their chase for the potentially significant Catholic vote, which makes up a significant 26% of the electorate.
With fine margins -- often in the range of a few thousand votes -- making the difference, candidates are eager to go beyond the ordinary to ensure that all interest groups are catered to.
Congress candidate for South Goa, Francisco Sardinha, who had moved a resolution in Parliament for the legalisation of bullfighting in Goa during his earlier stint between 2009-2014, has vowed to take it up again,
“I’m in favour of bullfights. I’ll take it up again. When human beings fight (boxing) you see them… so if bulls are made to fight what is wrong in it?” Sardinha told Hindustan Times.
BJP candidate for South Goa and sitting MP Narendra Sawaikar too pitched for the activity.
“Bullfighting is a traditional thing that has been going on in Goa. In the Jallikattu matter, the Union Government had supported the stand (of the state government). We will support it,” Sawaikar announced.
Despite being banned by an order of the Bombay High Court at Goa and later upheld by the Supreme Court, bullfighting continues sporadically and is considered Goa’s worst-kept secret. The sport that has roots in Goa’s colonial history is practiced in Goa’s Catholic-dominated villages.
Goa has a 11.31 lakh-strong electorate that is equally divided between the North and South Goa constituencies, both currently held by the BJP. Wooing Catholics who make up 26% of the state’s electorate -- 16% in North Goa and 36% in South Goa -- is seen as crucial to a candidate’s chances.
Unlike the sport in Spain, where the bull necessarily dies to end the fight, locally the fight ends when one bull flees from the spot declaring the other one the winner, a fact the supporters use to strengthen their argument.
However, legal experts have remained skeptical about the move.
“If there is a change in the Central Act (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act) then bullfights can be permitted. But I don’t think it is feasible because it has been banned, the ban has been upheld by the HC and SC. When something has been upheld by the SC, I don’t see any justification for the parliament to intervene and amend it,” Advocate Cleofato Almeida Coutinho said adding that Goa has only two MPs whose influence is little.
The promise to legalize bullfights has been repeated over several years by politicians with little success as attempts have been stonewalled by the Central government and the Supreme Court.