January 8, 2016 4:38:58 pm
At around 10 am on Friday, after the early morning tweet by Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan announcing the Centre’s decision to lift the ban on Jallikattu, villagers at Alaganallur near Madurai, a village infamous for its Vaadi vassal or the narrow passage through which the bulls are let loose during Pongal — rejoiced.
The main junction of Alaganallur was crowded with villagers making plans to conduct Jallikattu this Pongal, the harvest festival on January 15. There was no Jallikattu festival last year as the Supreme Court had banned it in May 2014. The junction is one of the high-profile venues of Jallikattu with almost all the houses surrounding the area able to witness the event besides two galleries built for the spectators next to a banyan tree decorated with trophies won by Alaganallur bulls in the past.
Meanwhile, almost all the political leaders in the state have also welcomed the move to restore the traditional sporting event that goes back centuries — something which has been canonised in Tamil literature and popular culture and is a part of the daily life of bull owners in this southern belt.
Jallikattu is not a crucial factor in the upcoming assembly elections but it was definitely a politic decision by the BJP in Tamil Nadu at a time when it is preparing to strike alliances.
The Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief EVKS Elangovan and MDMK leader Vaiko have welcomed the decision. PMK leader S Ramadoss appreciated it too, although all of them reminded the Centre of the need to ensure the legality of the government notification issued on Thursday permitting Jallikattu despite the Supreme Court ban.
The notification from the union ministry of enviornment said the “event shall take place in any district where it is being traditionally held annually, at such place explicitly permitted by the District Collector or the District Magistrate; bullock cart race shall be organised on a proper track, which shall not exceed two kilometres. In case of Jallikattu, the moment the bull leaves the enclosure, it shall be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metre.”
In May 2014, the Supreme Court’s had ruled that “bulls cannot be allowed as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock cart races in the state of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.”
There are chances of the Supreme Court striking down the latest notification. A senior AIADMK leader, whose party had demanded the lifting of the ban on Jallikattu, said this was a gambit by the BJP. “We welcome this move but unless there is a green nod from the Supreme Court, it could be banned again. If the animal welfare activists challenge this decision before Pongal, it may not happen. If SC bans it again, there is no loss for BJP government as they can tell the people that the government did try to lift the ban,” he said.
Animal welfare activists said they will challenge the government notification in the Supreme Court. Leading activist Don Williams of Blue Cross, an animal welfare organisation, said the ban has not been lifted by the Supreme Court only by the politicians. He added that the organisations working for the welfare of animals will challenge the order.
K Chandru, retired judge of Madras High Court told The Indian Express that the lifting ban on Jallikattu by the Centre was like selling liquor as per the rules framed under the Prohibition Act itself. “Once again the BJP government has proved that it has no regard for rule of law,” he said. “A mere amendment to the notification under the PCA Act will not solve the problem.’’
The notification issued under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960, only adds a rider to the schedule by prescribing certain safeguards for the bulls involved in Jallikattu.
A number of people who have demanded the restoration of the Jallikattu festival citing the fact that ever since the number of Jallikattu events had dropped from 3,000 before 2006 to 24 in 2014, pure breed native stud bulls had begun to disappear. They say that Jallikattu and that honour of having stud bulls was the inspiration for people to take care of bulls. With the ban of Jallikattu, the total of number of pure breed stud bulls have dropped to a few thousands.
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