Tamil Uprising Over Jallikattu Ban: Is It A Battle Of Culture Against Westernism And Animal Rights?

Himanshu Kumar

Civilisations have fought and perished for long, which has been a common scenario in the world history. But what is happening now in Tamil Nadu is no less than a cultural uproar.

The mass scale uprising in the state over the Jallikattu ban has been quite apolitical in nature, with renowned politicians and actors defaming the ban. People are continuously protesting against the state and central government’s failure over lifting the ban, and against PETA for running a campaign of lies in the mainstream media. Not only farmers but also the students and the urban working class has joined the protest. The agitation has multiplied with the Tamil Cinema stalwarts like Rajnikanth, Suriya and Vijay supporting the protest.


What is Jallikattu?

Also known as Eru Thazhuvuthal, Jallikattu is an ancient bull-taming sport. The 5000 year old seals of the Indus Valley depicts the sport being played. Bulls are let loose through the Vaadi Vassal or the entrance, into the crowd where the participants, usually men, try to tame the charging bull by holding on its hump and riding the bull.


via: www.jallikattu.in


Conserving the native breeds

A hundred years down the line, there were 130 cattle breeds in India. With modernization and milk revolution, it has now reduced to a meagre 37.  Earlier Tamil Nadu had six cattle breeds but now we have only five. To maintain the traditional livestock, we need to engage with their keepers and support them.


 Indian native bull               via : ICAR

Otherwise the day won’t be very far when commercial cattle based dairies and slaughter houses would dominate the country.

There lies an intricate connection between the event and the farming season. After harvesting is over, the bulls participate in such events, top bulls are noted by buyers and are then sold in markets. There they will be bought and the chain will repeat itself.

Male calves everywhere are sold to the slaughter houses. They are only kept in the regions where there are events like Jallikattu. Also, the native cows do not yield as much milk as the imported breeds. So, they don’t have any supportive or sponsored breeding programme. They are not even bred artificially. Hence, if Jallikattu is banned, the native breeds will soon fade away and become extinct.


via: www.silverscreen.in

Under article 48 of the Constitution of India, the state should endeavour to preserve and improve the breeds and prevent slaughters of cows, calves and other milk cattle.

According to the principles 1, 2 and 3 of the Conservation on Biological Diversity:

-livestock keepers are creators of breeds and custodians of animal genetic resources for food and agriculture

-livestock keepers and the sustainable use of traditional breeds are dependent on the conservation of their respective ecosystems

-traditional breeds represent collective property. They are a part of the products of indigenous knowledge and cultural expression of livestock keepers.

When a cattle is taken to the market place, or shandies, there is a category of buyers of the bulls for the purpose of Jallikattu, while the others being the buyers of oxen for farming, buyers of cows for household purposes and the beef traders. When the ban is imposed, the first category buyers are replaced by the beef traders. Also, with no demand for Jallikattu, the price falls down and they are directly sent to the slaughter houses.


Why oppose Jallikattu?

There are two main reasons for the opposition. The first and the foremost is the “disconnection between the rural and urban India”. Policies are made by the ministers living in cities. Sometimes, we forget to appreciate the indigenous techniques involved for the preservation of the environment and its entities which was evident in the destruction of lakes in Chennai recently.

In a past decade or so, we have witnessed a series of articles by the same urban ideologies where the focus is on creating sensational news by talking about the injuries following the sport.

There are more than 10,000 instances when a bull comes out for the sport. For every bull there are tens of players, out of which hardly 50 to 100 of them get injured in a year while the deaths are under 10.


via: i.ytimg.com

The second reason is that the media and the animal activists believe that Jallikattu imposes cruelty to the bulls by giving them alcohol, rubbing chilli powder in their eyes, twisting their tails etc. but the reality is totally different. There are so much rules, regulations and scrutiny in the sport that no bull owner will ever risk giving alcohol to the bull. Out of all the Jallikattu events, 7-8 instances are there where an offence has taken place. The events are so well organised that each bull’s photograph and the owner’s information is available with the organizers. In such cases of assault, the owner can be identified and action can be taken as well.

Every sport has some exceptions. Rather than banning it, we can try to check and rectify such errors where an animal is threatened. The sport is no less than a culture for its people, a culture which has tried to preserve the Indian breeds from extinction. So, let’s not ban it, let’s improve it. Let the fun and caring take place simultaneously.