My article in vijayvaani on negative consequences of banning jallikattu.
Jallikattu ban could lead to mass slaughter of bulls
With just days to go for the Pongal celebrations, there has been heavy uncertainty prevailing in Tamil Nadu on the fate of Jallikattu, Manjuvirattu and other temple festivals of the State. The people of Tamil Nadu, particularly the southern region, have been anxiously waiting for the Central Government to take steps to overcome the oppressive and unjust ban order issued by the Supreme Court of India. They had high hopes that Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a nationalist party would understand the sensitivities of our age-old culture, and facilitate Jallikattu for the oncoming Pongal.
The situation is very critical because both PETA and the Jallikattu supporters believe that this year is the lifeline for their respective camp. If Jallikattu happens, it will be a major victory for Jallikattu supporters and rural people of Tamil Nadu, and would ensure revival of Jallikattu in subsequent years; so far it has been suppressed heavily. If it does not happen, it will be a major victory for PETA and associated animal rights groups who expect that the protest by rural people will lose momentum and gradually wither away.
BJP misguided to political suicide
The BJP seems to be doing political calculation on the Jallikattu issue. They feel that if Jallikattu does not happen, the people’s anger will turn towards ADMK and BJP can cash in on this later. This is utter stupidity. The people have a soft corner for Ms Jayalalithaa as she was arrested and dethroned, and they are well aware that she is not in a position to do anything with regard to Jallikattu. So anger will be directed towards the BJP which is currently in power at the Center. The Dravidian parties will amplify this anger by pointing to the central government.
It will be political suicide for BJP in the south Tamil Nadu if Jallikattu does not happen. However, if BJP takes step to remove the ban and promotes Jallikattu in big way, it can establish a foothold in the southern Tamil Nadu, which is currently controlled by the Dravidian parties. It is pertinent that H. Raja of Tamil Nadu had issued statements that BJP will bring back Jallikattu. So people have high expectations of the BJP, and have been making arrangements to conduct Jallikattu at many places.
Keeping aside these political games, few seem aware of the severe consequences of this unjust ban on Jallikattu. If the Jallikattu is not conducted during the coming Pongal festival, it will trigger the mass sale of Jallikattu bulls by farmers as they start believing that this ban is forever. It need not be said that all bulls will end up in slaughter houses, but a large number of bulls were sold when the Supreme Court ban order came in May 2014. According to rough estimates, around 20 per cent of the bulls were sold after this ban; this is more than 1000 bulls across Tamil Nadu.
Jallikattu bulls are maintained at high cost by farmers, exclusively for the Jallikattu. There are no returns for the amount (and effort) spent in maintaining Jallikattu bulls. They are maintained because traditional society considers it a matter of pride to send bulls to the race. Jallikattu is conducted only once in a year in each place, and each farmer gets only few minutes for the bulls to participate in this event. Banning Jallikattu will destroy the incentive that traditional society has created for the up-keep of the bulls.
The beef mafia is salivating at this opportunity, as there is a premium price for the beef of Indian breeds (bos indicus) in the international market. Since Jallikattu bulls are maintained well with nutritious food, the quantity and quality of its flesh is superior to hybrid cows.
Jallikattu bulls are the last of the desi cattle breeds (bos indicus or zebu) in Tamil Nadu. In the past, there would be at least two to three commercial breeding bulls maintained by farmers in each village for reproduction. Artificial Insemination at cheaper rates by the government had destroyed the economic viability of these breeding bulls and led to drastic reduction in the population of uncastrated bulls across Tamil Nadu.
Earlier, whenever Jallikattu was sold, it would be bought for breeding purposes due to its superior quality. But the demand for breeding bulls fell due to artificial insemination and there is no other market for these male species which can match the rates offered by beef traders. Hence, any mass sale of these bulls, due to Jallikattu ban, by default will benefit the beef industry and lead to extinction of our desi cattle breeds, and the genetic diversity of our native cattle species will be lost forever. We would be forced to depend solely on the few hundred stud bulls maintained by government, which will lead to common fatherhood of all cattle across Tamil Nadu, degrading the genetic diversity.
Any loss of out native species is irreversible, and will severely affect future efforts to revive these desi cattle breeds. Already, many desi cattle breeds like ongole, hallikar, vechur are at the verge of extinction.
The government should recognise the utility of Jallikattu event as a self-sustaining model evolved by society for preservation and improvement of our desi cattle varieties and take steps to facilitate the exercise of Jallikattu, by removing the ban imposed on it.
Pongal Celebration will lose its charm without Jallikattu
Jallikattu, Manjuvirattu and related events are the lifeline of Pongal, without which it will lose its charm and liveliness. The soul of any society lies in its festivals and killing Jallikattu will kill traditional Tamil society itself. Can we imagine Europe without the FICA world cup or Halloween festival? Can we imagine Olympic Games without the grand celebrations with fireworks and dances?
Jallikattu is a Hindu Festival
Jallikattu is a Hindu religious festival, because all Jallikattu events are conducted as part of the temple event. In each event, all the temple bulls (called Koil Kalai) of surrounding temples are released in the arena after poojas are performed on them. These are bulls dedicated to the deities of respective temple (called divine bulls) and hence qualify for Nandi Pooja. The players in the arena worship these divine bulls and do not attempt to touch them. Even for private bulls, the owner takes it to the temple for pooja, before releasing it into the arena. So in every aspect, Jallikattu qualifies as a Hindu religious festival.
There is Puranic evidence in Bhagvata Puranam and Vishnu Puranam. Sathya Naganajiti was the daughter of Kosala king Nagnajit, who declared he would marry his daughter only to the brave prince who tamed his seven ferocious bulls. Sri Krishna accepted the challenge, tamed the seven bulls, and married Naganajiti; she is the sixth of the eight principal queen consorts of Sri Krishna. The government should recognise these facts and take steps to declare Jallikattu and other events conducted in temple premises as Hindu religious festival.
The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, enacted by the Nehruvian regime, gives rights to one community to kill cows and bulls as part of their religious rights. Yet now Hindus are being denied the right to use their own bulls for Jallikattu and other religious festivals. This is discriminatory and should be amended.
Cowardice and Fraud by PETA and animal rights mafia
The animal rights mafia had been persecuting Jallikattu for a decade. Unable to win legally, they resorted to lobbying and got lobbied Jairam Ramesh to amend the PCA act to include bulls in the list of Performing Animals in 2011. On this basis, the Supreme Court gave their harsh judgement. This is fraudulent because the definition of performing animals does not fit Jallikattu bulls. Jallikattu is not conducted for entertainment or commercial purpose. People spend their own money to organise these events as part of their temple festival. The definition of performing animals applies only to animals used in circus for entertainment purpose.
When laws can be modified to the whims and fancies of elite lobbies, what kind of justice is served?
After the Supreme Court ban order on Jallikattu in May 2014, this author asked one animal rights activist who was instrumental in the ban as to what steps she had taken to protect the bulls that would be sold because of the ban. She replied that it is not her responsibility to save those bulls, and the onus lay on the rural people! This is outright hypocrisy which needs to be exposed.
Animal rights activists are blindly parroting the argument of “bulls tortured in Jallikattu”, even after the accusations have been proved false. The fact that Jallikattu bulls are taken care of extravagantly all year round is deliberately ignored. When asked how come “mere five minutes of these bulls running through the arena” constitutes cruelty, they resort to stupid arguments like, “Even if it is for few minutes, it is cruelty”. When further cornered, “Are you going to send these bulls to slaughter just to avoid these few minutes of supposed cruelty?”, they become hysterical and claim, “the bulls will rest in peace forever, rather than undergoing torture in Jallikattu”.
The animal rights mafia could not answer many questions raised by Jallikattu supporters. When Jallikattu supporters demanded the registration number of the bulls that were allegedly tortured, they had no reply. Another fraud by the animal rights mafia is that they used old photographs (prior to 2008 events) while making their charges, and were caught red-handed when it was pointed out that after 2008 regulations all players were given uniforms, whereas the photos submitted by them had players without uniform! There are many such fraudulent practices by these mafias.
Jallikattu Bulls are NOT tortured
A normal bull has the capacity of pulling 2 to 4 tons of weight, depending on the breed and stature. After regulation of Jallikattu since 2008, just one person hangs on the hump of these bulls for few seconds. Since the weight of a person does not exceed 80 kg, hanging on to the hump for a few seconds cannot be construed as cruelty. All other accusations were removed by the regulation of the event by high court guidelines and the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act. The fact that Jallikattu organisers accepted and welcomed these regulations (even though strict), prove that they intend no harm to the bulls.
The people of Tamil Nadu had been under the sway of Dravidian parties for the past 60 years. Because of them, Jallikattu has been projected as distinct Tamil culture, and not as a Hindu religious festival, comparable with similar animal sports in other parts of the country. With the rise of the BJP at the center and both Dravidian parties weakened in the State, the Tamil people have realised that Jallikattu is a Hindu festival and are ready to accept this in public.
The central government can help to overcome the ban on Jallikattu by removing bulls from the list of performing animals, as bulls in Jallikattu are used only as part of temple festivals and not for commercial or entertainment purpose.
It can also declare Jallikattu, Manjuvirattu and all other events conducted in temples as a religious festival.
Moreover, PETA is a foreign funded organisation which has no locus standi on local festivals. Their supporters in India are urban elites who associate with PETA for varied reasons; neither has any experience in maintaining bull or cows.
But Jallikattu supporters are rooted in our tradition and fighting for their religious and cultural rights inherited from ancestors. They have unquestionable legitimate interests in the fight for preserving and promoting Jallikattu.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider these facts and take appropriate steps to remove the ban on Jallikattu and save the native breeds and Tamil culture from becoming extinct.