The increasing number of deaths of human and bulls during the Jallikkattu events in Tamil Nadu, which is nearing its end this season, has given strength to the animal lovers as the Supreme Court will hear the petition given by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) any day this month. One bull died after heart attack while another one due to a head injury this week in the state. The number of human deaths related to Jallikkattu events has touched 20.

The death of Komban on Sunday, a prominent bull in Pudukottai district has cast a shadow on the followers of the event as it was one untamed bull in this season in any event it participated. Komban’s death was more sensational because it was owned by Tamil Nadu’s controversial minister of health, Vijaya Baskar.

The animal met with a serious head injury when it was forced out of the Vaadivasal (narrow gateway) into the arena for taming. Komban’s death has spread a sense of gloom, fear and anxiety among the villagers in the districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Namakkal, Theni and Dindigul as preparations are in full swing for the final round of Jallikkattu events.

Earlier during the events, one bull was injured seriously when it was hit by speeding train. According to eyewitnesses, the bull which was let loose into the arena, completed its run and sped away beating its owners. It then ran for more than six kilometres along the nearby railway track when it was hit by the moving train. Another bull, after attacking the tamers, jumped into a 23-feet well near the arena but was rescued by the fire services personnel deployed to ensure the safety of the bulls and tamers.

What is giving fear to lovers of Jallikkattu is the fact that notwithstanding the increase in the number of persons gored to death by the bulls and the number of bulls getting killed, most of the organisers are commercialising the events to make as much money as possible. They also feel the injuries sustained by more than 40 persons on the same day in various Jallikkattu events went unnoticed. “The number of persons who have lost their lives since 15 January could have touched 20. We are trying to collect the details from some of the remote villages in the state,” said an animal rights activist from the Nilgiris.

Officials in the districts where there were human casualties said that they had sent reports to the government about the deaths. “It is for the authorities to take a call on these reports. The government rules do not have any provisions to offer compensation to those who meet with accidents and die during Jallikkattu,” said a district official in Tiruchirappalli.

They point out that a film actor who came forward to build a house for the immediate relative of a victim who got electrocuted during a demonstration held at Salem in January last year, was in the forefront to demand the immediate revival of the Jallikkattu. But no such actions have been reported from anywhere in the state to help the families of those who were gored to death by the bulls during the Jallikkattu.

“We love the animals as well as human beings. It is in the interest of both we demand a total ban on this barbaric ritual,” said Chinni Krishna, former vice-chairman, Animal Welfare Board of India(AWBI). The AWBI which has been functioning from Chennai for the past 52 years has been shifted to New Delhi.

“Perhaps the officials feel that being away from Tamil Nadu, they would be able to keep the animal lovers at bay,” said Krishna. “The animals, as well as the human beings, should be taken care of. I am surprised at the callous attitude of the authorities towards the kin of the Jallikkattu victims,” said an animal lover based in Chennai.