As the Assembly elections revolve around a corner in Tamil Nadu, the Pongal festival and the traditional bullfighting game Jallikattu have caught the attention of the BJP and the Congress. Though the BJP has organized Pongal celebrations led by national and state leaders in several districts, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi witnessed the Jallikattu event in Madurai on Thursday.
In the past, the BJP and the Congress have faced public outrage for their positions or as a controversial game of jallikkattu, which has faced long legal battles over animal cruelty, while at the same time being a symbol of Tamil culture. In their current efforts to celebrate these cultural symbols ahead of the elections, both national parties have attacked each other in their past positions.
What is Jallikkattu?
The bully-taming game is popular in Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukottai and Dindigul districts – also known as the Jallikattu Belt. Jangikattu is celebrated in the second week of January, during the Tamil harvest festival called Pongal.
With a tradition of more than 2,000 years, Jallikkattu is a competitive sport and an event that honors bull owners who breed behind mating. It is a violent game in which competitors try to knock a bull for a prize; If they fail, the bull owner will win the prize.
In an era when the farm sector was mostly mechanized, there were no major cash benefits for bull owners in breeding javelin bulls other than the gifts available during javelin throwing events. Traditionally, these were toddy, a slice, betel leaf, bananas and a cash prize of Rs. For the past two decades, gifts include grinders, a refrigerator and small pieces of furniture.
Why is Jallikattu important in Tamil culture?
The Jallikkattu farming community considers it a traditional way to protect their purebred native bulls. At a time when animal husbandry is often an artificial process, advocates argue that one way to protect these males is to gravel, otherwise used only for meat if not for plowing.
Popular indigenous breeds used for jallikkattu include Gangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalacheri, Barugur and Malay cow. Owners of these premium breeds are respected locally.
Why is Jallikkattu subject to legal battles?
In India, legal battles over animal rights erupted in the early 1990s. In 1991, the Ministry of Environment announced a ban on training and exhibitions for bears, monkeys, tigers, leopards and dogs, which was challenged by the Indian Circus in the Delhi High Court. In 1998, dogs were excluded from the notice.
Jallikkattu was first subjected to legal scrutiny, and in 2007 the Animal Welfare Board of India and the Animal Rights Commission Betta filed petitions in the Supreme Court against Jallikkattu and bullock cart racing.
However, the Tamil Nadu government lifted the ban in 2009 by enacting a law signed by the governor.
In 2011, the UPA regime at the center added bulls to the list of animals banned for training and exhibition. In May 2014, just days before the BJP was elected to power, the Supreme Court banned bullfighting in a petition citing a 2011 announcement.
So, is it legal or is it banned now?
That is the meaning of the case pending in the Supreme Court. The state government has legalized these cases which have been challenged in court.
In January 2017, just months after the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, massive protests erupted across Tamil Nadu against the ban, with the city of Chennai witnessing a 15-day uprising.
In the same year, the Tamil Nadu government amended the Central Act and issued an order allowing it in the state of Jallikattu; It was later approved by the President.
Betta challenged the state action, arguing that it was unconstitutional.
In 2018, the Supreme Court recommended the Jallikattu case to a constitutional bench, which is now pending. The key question to be resolved is whether the Jallikattu heritage can be preserved as a fundamental cultural right of the people of Tamil Nadu. Section 29 (1) commands that “any part of the population residing in the territory of India or any part thereof shall have a distinct language, script or culture of its own”.
Like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka passed a law to save a similar game called Kampala. A similar attempt by Maharashtra was challenged in court before it was passed into law.
The games are banned in all states, including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab and Maharashtra, except in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, where grass taming and racing are regularly organized.
What is politics playing?
After the DMK government issued a statement in support of Jallikkattu in 2009, it was the 2011 amendment of the Union Ministry of Environment that led to the ban on Jallikkattu in 2014. Despite accusations of banning the UPA regime, thousands of people chanted slogans frequently targeting the BJP Narendra Modi regime at the center and showed a reckless attitude to controversy until the 2017 uprising in Chennai.
Now, the two parties are vying with each other to confirm their support for the Jallikkattu event. Rahul Gandhi said in Madurai On Thursday he testified to Jallickattu that it was safe for both bulls and bull breeders. He also accused the BJP of trying to suppress Tamil culture and language. As for the BJP, CD Ravi, the national general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu, has accused Rahul of hypocrisy, reminding him of the UPA government’s position that Jallikattu is “cruel and business-minded”.
The BJP is allied with the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, while the Congress is an ally of the main opposition DMK.