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Jallikattu row: Unknown facts about the blood sport

SNS | New Delhi |

As Tamil Nadu witnessed massive protests against the ban on Jallikattu – ancient bull-taming sport, here’s all you need to know about the sport and the controversies surrounding it.

What is Jallikattu?

Jallikattu is an ancient bull-taming popular sport in Tamil Nadu organised during harvest festival, Pongal. Originally known as eru thazhuvuthal (embracing the bull), the game is held by Tamil communities to select the best bulls for sustaining the progeny of the native breed.

Jalli refers to coins which could be of gold, and kattu is making it into a bundle. To give a competitive spirit to eru thazhuvuthal a bundle of coins is tied on the forehead of the bull between its two horns. One who succeeds in embracing the bull by clinging to its hump and picking up the bundle is declared the winner.

What Jallikattu means to Tamil Nadu?

Jallikattu is not a mere sport for the Tamils. It is a traditional ritual-evolved game, a key to their agriculture. It is an inspiration for people to hold onto their bulls- the bull represents the pride of their family and community.

Article 29 (1) of the Constitution says, “Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”. Jallikattu may well be deemed part of it.

It is not only the constitutional right of the people of Tamil Nadu to conserve it, but also their bounden duty to preserve this rich cultural heritage under Article 51A(f) of the Constitution. This fundamental duty says, “To value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture.”

Why Supreme Court ban Jallikattu?

The Supreme Court on May 2014, while hearing a petition against Jallikattu by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) banned Jallikattu, saying bulls cannot be used as performing animals including bullock-cart races. Sixteen valiant young men had lost their lives in Jallikattu in the last decade.

SC ban – threats to Jallikattu

The game is held only with native breeds of Jallikattu. The number of bulls, particularly the native Kangayam breed used extensively in Jallikattu, is declining owing to the mechanisation of agriculture. Organising Jallikattu helps the farmers to preserve and conserve the native breed from extinction. The jallikattu bulls are not killed but the game’s motive is to embrace the bull by clinging to its hump and picking up the bundle. Jallikattu and bullock cart racing give a healthy male-to-female ratio. It is this sport that revives the importance of the bulls. Hence, banning the game can lead to lost in the conserving spirit among the people.

The protest and the follow-ups so far

The Supreme Court on January 12 rejected a plea seeking to lift the ban on Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu during Pongal festivities. This evokes a massive protest from supporters of the sport. More than 200 youths were taken into custody on January 17 for protesting in Madurai’s Alanganallur village demanding lifting of the ban on Jallikattu.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on January 19 met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and sought an ordinance enabling the conduct of the ancient bull-taming sport. PM assured that the Centre would be supportive of the steps taken by the state government.

On January 19, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) MP Anbumani Ramadoss was detained for staging dharna outside Prime Minister Narendra Modi's residence, seeking ordinance on the sport.