'Make Jallikattu legal': Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam writes to PM Modi seeking ordinance on sport

Urging the Centre to intervene, Panneerselvam has said that the sport of Jallikattu is about bull taming and not harming the animal.

FP Staff January 09, 2017 15:56:30 IST
'Make Jallikattu legal': Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam writes to PM Modi seeking ordinance on sport

With Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival, which coincides with the banned sport of Jallikattu drawing close, the Tamil Nadu government has launched fresh efforts seeking reinstatement of the ancient sport. The festival of Pongal will be held on 14 and 15 January this year, which traditionally coincides with the sport, where bulls are usually fed alcohol and encouraged to run following which participants attempt to tame the animal.

Tamil Nadu CM writes to Centre

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sought an ordinance to allow conducting the bull taming sport.

Urging the Centre to intervene, Panneerselvam said that the sport of Jallikattu is about bull taming and not harming the animal. Adding that it is not a matador sport, the Tamil Nadu chief minister has asked the Centre to intervene by the means of an ordinance.

Panneerselvam, in his letter to the prime minister, said "considering the groundswell of sentiment and support for the conduct of Jallikattu all over Tamil Nadu, this is an issue on which the government of India must act with maximum despatch."

"Given that Pongal festival, which holds great importance to the people of Tamil Nadu, is less than a week away and Jallikattu is an integral part of the Pongal festivities, considering the urgency of the issue, Government of India should consider promulgating an ordinance removing the legal impediments, enabling the conduct of Jallikattu during Pongal, 2017," he said in the letter.

Make Jallikattu legal Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam writes to PM Modi seeking ordinance on sport

Representational image. AFP

Panneerselvam told Modi that bulls meant for jallikattu are reared exclusively for the event and are embraced by able bodied youth during the sport. "Jallikattu is deeply ingrained as part of the cultural tradition of Tamil Nadu as a sport popular among warriors since the Sangam era and this 2,000 year old traditional sport finds mention in the ancient Tamil text Silapathigaram," he said.

Jallikattu was "inextricably" linked to rural and agrarian customs and had religious significance, with families donating bulls to temples in fulfillment of vows, he said.

Panneerselvam recalled that both he and his predecessor, the late J Jayalalithaa, had put forth a demand to Modi that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests "should clearly denotify" bulls as performing animals from a 2011 notification by the Ministry.

The other demand was to "suitably amend Section 11(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by introducing a new clause 'f' in sub-section (3) of Section 11 specifically exempting Jallikattu in addition to other exemptions already provided in the Act," he said. However, there has been "no action yet from government of India" on the aforesaid suggestions, the Chief Minister said.

Resounding support for the 'ancient cultural sport'

Meanwhile, a resounding support from the Tamil community has emerged for the continuation of the ancient sport, not only from the rural areas but from artists and celebrities alike.

Youngsters in Chennai rallied demanding a central legislation to allow the Jallikattu. A report in The News Minute said the Marina Beach in Chennai witnessed huge and "spontaneous" rally on Sunday as at least 10,000 people gathered to 'Save Jallikattu', asking the central and state government to do whatever in their means to allow the cultural tradition to continue this Pongal. The rally was organized by a group of non-political and youth organisations.

The volunteers held banners and posters demanding that the sport be held this year. Most of them insisted that they did not owe allegiance to any outfit or political party but wanted the 'traditional Tamil sport' to be conducted this Pongal.

Tamil actor, Kamal Haasan, too came out in support of the sport, stating that he was an avid fan. According to India TodayHaasan said that people should not confuse Jallikattu with bull fighting in Spain, where the animal is often killed. He said that all those who feel the bull taming sport should be banned, should ideally give up on biryani, too.  "If you want a ban on Jallikattu, let's also ban biryani," Haasan told India Today. 

He said that being a proud Tamilian, he supports the sport, reinstating that it's a part of their "tradition and culture."

Indian Cricketer and ace bowler R Ashwin also appealed to the people to not spread hatred in the name of the sport and seek a solution through dialogue, according to CNN-News18.

Political voices

Predictably, the political slug-fest around the issue has peeked with the Jallikattu festival just days away. As Jallikattu holds an emotional value in the state, political parties have managed to lock horns over the issue — even as all of them pledged support to the banned sport — each accusing the other that they were not serious about the issue.

While the Tamil nadu government's  move is being seen as a knee-jerk reaction of the massive protest held in Chennai on Sunday, opposition parties too have taken the opportunity to point their guns at the ruling dispensation.

Congress leader Khusboo has questioned the timing of the chief minister's letter, alleging that it was too late in the day to initiate such an action. She said that the government should have written to the Centre well in advance had it been serious about the issue.

Meanwhile, the DMK has been holding protests to urge the State and Central governments to "come forward to hold the bull taming sport Jallikattu." AIADMK's newly elected chief Sasikala, however, accused the DMK of burying "truths" and besmirch the reputation of Amma" by brushing off the late leader's efforts.

The legal side of the story

The Supreme Court in November last had upheld its earlier ban on the sport, which is criticised for animal cruelty. However, only in December last year, the central government was told off by the Supreme Court for its January 2016 notification, allowing use of bulls in events like Jallikattu, saying that its 2014 verdict banning the use of the animals cannot be "negated".

"How can you (the Centre) negate our judgment banning Jallikattu by coming up with the January 2016 notification allowing bulls to participate in the sport again," a Supreme Court bench hearing the matter had said taking objection to the Centre's notification.

On 8 January 2016, the Centre had issued a notification lifting ban on Jallikattu in poll-bound Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions, which was challenged in the apex court by Animal Welfare Board of India, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India, a Bangalore-based NGO and others.

Animal rights activists have maintained that the sport is barbarous in nature as it forces a naturally, slow moving peaceful animal into stampeding. The Centre had on previous occasions, taken a symathetic view towards the Tamil Nadu governemnt's appeals and tried to justify the ancient sport in the court, stating that now it would be ensured that bulls were neither tortured nor made to take alcohol prior to Jallikattu.

Supporting the historic tradition, the Centre had also told the court that it should not stop it and moreover, villagers could not be asked to go and see F1 sports. The court had, however, refused to reconsider its previous judgement banning the sport as it was "barbaric and torturous towards the animal." "We cannot import Roman gladiator-type sport here in India," the court had observed.

The apex court had also earlier declared Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 as constitutionally void, being violative or Article 254(1) of the Constitution.

With inputs from PTI

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