What is Jallikattu?
Jallikattu, in the simplest of terms, is a sport conducted as part of Mattu Pongal, the third day of the four-day-long harvest festival Pongal. The Tamil word ‘mattu’ means bull, and the third day of Pongal is dedicated to cattle, a key partner in the process of farming. Bulls get more importance over cows for bulls help farmers to plough their field, pull their cart loaded with goods, and inseminate cows, in turn resulting in production of milk, offspring and preserving indigenous species.
The bull-taming sport is popular in Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai and Dindigul districts — known as the Jallikattu belt. Jallikattu is celebrated in the second week of January, during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.
Multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape.Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull’s horns.
Arguments In Favour:
1.Culture:For many protesters, the fight for jallikattu is a fight for Tamil pride. Jallikattu, they say, is a centuries-old tradition, and that it’s an integral part of the Tamil culture.
Sangam literature, nearly 2,000 years old, talks about ‘eru thazhuvuthal’ — hugging the bull — as a rite of passage for a man seeking a girl’s hand in marriage, says Stalin Rajangam, a Dalit writer (who opposes jallikattu). He says it’s conceivable that the practices have been “observed in some form or the other over centuries,” but adds that jallikattu “as a competitive sport and spectacle is only a few centuries old and restricted geographically.”
2.Those who defend jallikattu say that it helps preserve native breeds of cattle. The sport helps the farmers to select the toughest and sturdiest bulls for further breeding…these bulls are so valuable that no farmer will ever risk the life of these bulls. But without the sport, those who rear them sometimes sell them off to slaughterhouses.In an age when the farm sector is largely mechanised, there are no major monetary benefits for bull owners in breeding Jallikattu bulls other than the prizes they get during the Jallikattu events.
Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu are among the popular native cattle breeds used for Jallikattu. The owners of these premium breeds command respect locally.
Jallikattu has been known to be practised during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BCE).It was common among the Ayar people who lived in the ‘Mullai (pastoral)’ division of the ancient Tamil country.Later, it became a platform for the display of bravery, and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement.
A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization, dated between 2,500 – 1,800 BC, discovered at Mohenjodaro depicting the practise is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi.
4.Pride for Local Farmers:Jallikattu is key to the farmers. It is a chance for them to flaunt their personal strength, the strength of their bulls, love for their cattle and how well they have looked after them and a chance to find out the most potent bull to breed with their cows.
1.Human Casualities:The event has caused several human deaths and injuries and there are several instances of fatalities to the bulls.
2.Animal Cruelty:Animal welfare concerns are related to the handling of the bulls before they are released and also during the competitor’s attempts to subdue the bull.Practices, before the bull is released, include prodding the bull with sharp sticks or scythes, extreme bending of the tail which can fracture the vertebrae, and biting of the bull’s tail.There are also reports of the bulls being forced to drink alcohol to disorient them, or chilli peppers being rubbed in their eyes to aggravate the bull.
Article 51A (g) of the Constitution of India mandates every citizen to protect forests, lakes, rivers, wild animals etc. Apart from that, the Constitution also reminds us to show compassion towards birds and animals.
3.Gambling:Another issue is gambling. Men who put money at stake, betting to tame the bull, take the tradition of bull embracing to an objectionable level where the animal is hurt and left bloodied.
History of Legal Battle on Jallikattu:
In India, legal battles surrounding animal rights issues emerged in the early 1990s. A notification from the Environment Ministry in 1991 banned the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs, which was challenged by the Indian Circus Organisation in the Delhi High Court. In 1998, dogs were excluded from the notification.
Jallikattu first came under legal scrutiny in 2007 when the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights group PETA moved petitions in the Supreme Court against Jallikattu as well as bullock cart races.
The Tamil Nadu government, however, worked its way out of the ban by passing a law in 2009, which was signed by the Governor.
In 2011, the UPA regime at the Centre added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition is prohibited. In May 2014, days before the BJP was elected to power, the Supreme Court banned the bull-taming sport, ruling on a petition that cited the 2011 notification.