Misplaced activism: Ban on jallikattu is neither desirable nor enforceable, it must go
January 20, 2017, 2:00 am IST TOI Edit in TOI Editorials | Chennai, Edit Page, India | TOI
The growing protests against the ban on the bull-taming sport of jallikattu in Tamil Nadu shed light on yet another case of misplaced animal rights and judicial activism. In 2014, the Supreme Court had banned jallikattu on the ground that bulls could not be allowed as performing animal. However, jallikattu is an age-old tradition in Tamil Nadu and continues to enjoy significant popularity. It is intrinsically linked to the rural-agrarian economy of the state where only the best bulls from indigenous species are reared for jallikattu.
While NGOs and animal rights activists have asserted that bulls are ‘tortured’ in jallikattu and have drawn comparisons with Spanish bull-fighting, this is far from reality. In fact, jallikattu is an event where the best bulls are displayed and the ones that win are sought for breeding by farmers. Thus, there’s no question of harming the bulls as they serve an important economic and cultural function. In that sense, jallikattu plays a significant part in preserving and propagating native cattle breeds in Tamil Nadu.
The argument that engaging the bulls in sport itself is cruelty doesn’t cut ice either. Agriculture in Tamil Nadu is getting mechanised and farmers cannot afford to keep bulls simply as pets. Would animal rights activists prefer that the bulls be sold and slaughtered for meat? Besides, the jallikattu ban is hardly enforceable as benign cultural practices enjoying widespread support can’t be curbed through fiat. In fact, the issue has seen Tamil Nadu’s rival political parties – AIADMK and DMK – both oppose the ban. Chief minister O Panneerselvam has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to push for an ordinance to allow jallikattu. However, the PM’s office has merely observed that the matter is sub judice as the Supreme Court is currently seized of petitions challenging the Centre’s year-old notification allowing jallikattu.
If BJP wishes to make political inroads in Tamil Nadu it makes sense for the national ruling party to explore the ordinance route on jallikattu, or alternatively to bring an amendment to the original prevention of animal cruelty legislation in the upcoming parliamentary session to allow jallikattu. As far as the Supreme Court is concerned, it must stick to its remit of narrowly interpreting the law. Judicial activism should not morph into social engineering projects. On jallikattu, it would suffice if the apex court regulates the sport rather than prescribe a wholesale ban:
Comment:Jallikattu, the ancient and traditional sport should be allowed by taking precautions for avoiding cruelty, protect their indigenous inbreeding for agrarian economy as said in TOI editorial and after keping security related safeguards in place.
According to Hindu’s editorial dated 2017/01/21Tamil Nadu is caught in a near-spontaneous mass upsurge in support of jallikattu, the bull-taming spectacle held during the time of the harvest festival of Pongal. Tens of thousands have gathered in public places, most notably on Chennai’s Marina beach, on a day-and-night vigil, seeking the reversal of the Supreme Court-ordered ban on the conduct of the annual ritual. In the name of cultural pride and custom and tradition, students and youth have risen up. The show of solidarity has been peaceful, in sharp contrast to the aggression shown by some enthusiasts on social media in targeting certain celebrities for their earlier support to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam felt compelled to respond to this movement, and rushed to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and wrest an assurance on an ordinance to nullify the Supreme Court ban. But whatever the views of the youth taking part in the demonstration, jallikattu in its present form is of relatively recent origin, intended to make bulls run amok for the sake of spectacle. Instead of the traditional form of one man against one animal, latter-day jallikattu is a mass-participant ritual of hundreds of men chasing a bull and trying to hold on to its hump or stop it by pulling at or twisting its tail.
Few other feudal traditions have survived in modern, progressive India in the name of masculine valour and cultural pride. When the Supreme Court banned this spectacle that took a heavy toll on both the animals and the human participants, it did so after attempts at its regulation and the orderly conduct of this “sport” were deemed a failure. In 2013, under the watch of the Animal Welfare Board of India, the onus was on the State of Tamil Nadu to ensure that jallikattu did not violate the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. But, the opportunity to ensure a jallikattu that was free of cruelty to the animals and injuries to the participating youth was frittered away. Efforts that are now on to nullify the effect of the Supreme Court judgment through the ordinance route thus carry a serious risk of judicial reproach. Last year, the Centre did try to get around the court order by issuing an executive notification that granted exemption from restrictions on the use of bulls as performing animals in traditional sports. The proper course for the Centre and the State government is to persuade the Supreme Court that a jallikattu that does not involve, or at least almost eliminates, cruelty to animals and that guarantees the safety of spectators and participants alike is indeed possible. It is all right if popular sentiment can influence legislation, but it cannot undermine the rule of law.