Jallikattu Debate

Moh-Juj: Traditional Animal Fights in Assam

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Buffalo and bulbul fights

Mains level : Read the attached story

Introduction

  • The Assam government’s bid to revive traditional ‘Moh-Juj’ buffalo and bulbul (songbird) fighting during Magh Bihu has encountered a legal challenge from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in the Gauhati High Court.
  • PETA India seeks to ban these activities.

Buffalo and bulbul fights: Age-Old Tradition

  • Folk Culture: Buffalo and bulbul fights are part of the folk culture during the Assamese winter harvest festival of Magh Bihu.
  • Location: Buffalo fights are prominent in places like Ahatguri in Nagaon district, while bulbul fights are held at the Hayagriv Madhab Mandir in Hajo.
  • Religious Significance: Bulbul fights are tied to religion, involving rituals, lamps, and offerings to Lord Vishnu.
  • Historical Legacy: The practice has roots in the traditions of the Ahom rulers.

Discontinuation after SC Ruling

  • Supreme Court’s Intervention: The fights were discontinued after the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgment banned the use of bulls as performing animals in events like jallikattu.
  • Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI): Following the SC ruling, the AWBI urged the Assam government to stop animal and bird fights during Bihu celebrations.
  • Resistance: Despite the prohibition, some continued to hold buffalo fights in defiance, leading to legal challenges.

Revival Efforts after SC Clears Path

  • SC Ruling in 2021: The Supreme Court overturned its 2014 judgment, allowing states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Karnataka to conduct traditional events involving bulls and animals.
  • Assam Government’s SOPs: The Assam Cabinet approved Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for buffalo and bulbul fights without deliberate cruelty.
  • Guidelines: SOPs permit fights in traditional locations, set specific dates, forbid harm to animals, and ban the use of intoxicating substances.
  • Revival: Buffalo and bulbul fights were resumed in Magh Bihu, with Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma supporting the revival as part of Assam’s Bihu traditions.

PETA’s Legal Challenge

  • PETA’s Petitions: PETA India filed petitions in the Gauhati High Court seeking a ban on both activities and an interim stay during the proceedings.
  • Allegations: PETA claimed that buffalo owners instigated fights through slapping, shoving, and using wooden sticks, resulting in injuries. Bulbuls were allegedly captured and forced to fight.
  • Court’s Response: The court heard PETA’s application and noted that organizing buffalo fights beyond January 25 violates government guidelines. It instructed the petitioners to inform the relevant authorities to prevent the event in violation of SOPs.

Conclusion

  • The legal battle over the revival of traditional animal fights in Assam reflects the clash between cultural traditions, religious significance, and animal welfare concerns.
  • The Gauhati High Court’s decision will shape the future of these practices in the region.

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