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Jallikattu is back, but can tradition justify these deaths?

Today, Jallikattu was held in parts of Tamil Nadu, in which tens of thousands of people participated. However, within hours reports said two had been left dead and 83 injured after at Rapoosal village in Pudukottai district.

Written by Nandini Rathi |
January 22, 2017 5:54:58 pm
Jallikattu, Jallikattu protests, Jallikattu agitation, Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, Supreme Court, Jallikattu ban, protests against Jallikattu ban, India news, Indian Express People protest to Lift ban on jallikattu and impose ban on PETA, at Kamarajar Salai, Marina Beach in Chennai on Saturday. (PTI Photo)

It is fair to say that Jallikattu has deep roots within sections of Tamil society. Celebrated figures like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan and A R Rahman have come out to voice protest against the Supreme Court ban on the ancient sport. In the recent protests against the Supreme Court ban, this claim has however been projected hyperbolically as a uniform essence of Tamil culture and identity, even though as a sport it has been gender, caste and region wise limited.

Today, Jallikattu was held in parts of Tamil Nadu, in which tens of thousands of people participated. However, within hours reports said two had been left dead and 83 injured after at Rapoosal village in Pudukottai district. The figures just go on to show how the sport is unregulated and played with scant regard for safety of participants, making it a fatal combo. Surely, loss of human life cannot be taken so casually in the wave of regional pride.

There are valid safety concerns, just as there are reasonable reasons to oppose an outright ban. In streets as well as social media, however, passion and pride commonly and tragically trump reason and nuance — pitting the two sides against each other instead of encouraging them to negotiate and work with each other. What if they momentarily suspended the hard lines and decided to talk about suitable regulations to continue the sport while at the same time ensuring minimum hazard for the participating players and animals.

The protesters should not overlook or gloss over the human and the animal toll of unregulated Jallikattu events in the name of Tamil tradition, just as animal rights fundamentalists and the Supreme Court should reconsider the heavy handed approach of one-shot outlawing of the sport which has ancient roots in the Tamil heartland.

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First published on: 22-01-2017 at 05:54:58 pm
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