Jallikattu: Revoke of ban a win-win scenario for Tamils, chance to shine for Panneerselvam

Everything that has happened so far indicates that Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu is just a few hours away. The draft emergency ordinance prepared by the law department of the Tamil Nadu government has been sent for vetting and opinion to the Ministry of Law and Justice after which the Ministry of Home Affairs will take a look at it as well. Sources indicate that if the legal brains and the Ministry of Home Affairs clear it and is signed by the president, it will be promulgated by the Tamil Nadu governor on Saturday.

What it means is that jallikattu could well be held in the southern Tamil Nadu districts on Sunday.


Tamil Nadu chief minister O Panneerselvam. PTI file image

The decision to rush through the ordinance and the event over the weekend is also to ensure the animal rights activists will have no time to rush to the Supreme court to try and stop jallikattu from taking place. The activists who will move the court after the ordinance is issued, are resigned to the fact that the event will take place this year. By the time, the court takes it up next week or later, the dust would have settled on jallikattu.

The hitch, however, is that the session of the Tamil Nadu Assembly has already been called for 23 January and whether it is legally tenable for the government to bring in an ordinance just four days before the session. That decision will be taken by the governor of the state.

Whether the ordinance stands legal scrutiny is, of course, another matter altogether. Most legal minds think it will not. But Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has pointed out that the sport is a state subject and that the state of Tamil Nadu can bring in a legislation allowing jallikattu with reasonable restrictions to prevent cruelty to the bulls.

What the pro-jallikattu groups also want is that the central government should amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960), to include jallikattu bulls in the category of trained animals that are used in the military, police, exhibitions, zoos or for educational and scientific purposes. But the prime minister is not inclined to poke his nose into the Jallikattu case till it is disposed of by the Supreme Court.

But the legal angle to the jallikattu row is only one way of looking at it. The issue now is deeply political, which is why in the last 24 hours, there has been a clamour on part of political parties to take a position on jallikattu.

The merits and demerits of the case apart, the Marina Beach protest has been the best news that Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has heard in a long time. The leaderless, spontaneous protest gave him a lifeline that he so badly needed. Otherwise, being asked to quit to make way for VK Sasikala was just a phone call away.

Even if a politically astute Panneerselvam puts up a pretence of giving all the credit to Sasikala for the ordinance, in the common man's mind, he will still be seen as the person who got it done. That will make it difficult for Sasikala to effect a change in leadership at Fort St George, the seat of the Tamil Nadu secretariat.

According to sources, leaders in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are not positively inclined to a Sasikala takeover of the government and would be more than happy with the turn of events. The Panneerselvam government has ensured that things do not worsen on the law and order front despite the fact that there has been no clear leadership in the protesting group. The chief minister also endeared himself to the group of students who met him on day two of the protest by showing them the cowshed and his collection of bulls and cows. He ensured that he came across as a chief minister who identified with the cause of Jallikattu.

In comparison, the opposition DMK exhibited a lack of imagination by resorting to a rail roko protest in Tamil Nadu on Friday. MK Stalin, the newly elected working president of the party, needs to realise that this old world way of protest does not find resonance with the people anymore because it is the public that is put to inconvenience by such gimmicks. The Occupy Marina template has shown that putting public pressure via an apolitical, peaceful and trouble-free protest can move governments.

The PMK also jumped into the fray threatening to organise jallikattu on Republic Day if the Panneerselvam government fails to do anything by 25 January. This attempt to defy the Supreme court ban on jallikattu again is seen as nothing more than trying to win brownie points. The point being missed is that the protesters do not want to flout the law. They want the law to be amended to facilitate the conduct of the sport.

So far, the entire AIADMK leadership has rallied behind Sasikala. If he hits the bull's eye on Sunday, Panneerselvam can be expected to subtly assert himself with New Delhi's backing. The jallikattu standoff could well alter the dynamics of the internal tussle in the AIADMK between Sasikala and Panneerselvam.

Published Date: Jan 20, 2017 13:30 PM | Updated Date: Jan 20, 2017 14:20 PM

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