From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Debate over Jallikattu
The Tamil Nadu government has permitted Jallikattu to be held across the state during the upcoming Pongal season.
51A (g) of the Constitution of India mandates every citizen to protect forests, lakes, rivers, wild animals etc. Apart from that, the Constitution also reminds us to show compassion towards birds and animals.
What is Jallikattu?
- It is a bull-taming sport and a disputed traditional event in which a bull such is released into a crowd of people.
- Multiple human participants attempt to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape.
- Participants hold the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags on the bull’s horns.
- It is typically practised in the state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal (harvest) celebrations in January.
A historic sport
- Jallikattu has been known to be practised during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BCE).
- It was common among the Ayar people who lived in the ‘Mullai (pastoral)’ division of the ancient Tamil country.
- Later, it became a platform for the display of bravery, and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement.
- A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practise is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi.
Why it is disputed?
- As there were incidents of injury and death associated with the sport, both to the participants and to the animals forced into it, animal rights organizations have called for a ban to the sport.
- This has resulted in the court banning it several times over the past years.
- However, with protest from the people against the ban, a new ordinance was made in 2017 to continue the sport.
- The event has caused several human deaths and injuries and there are several instances of fatalities to the bulls.
- Animal welfare concerns are related to the handling of the bulls before they are released and also during the competitor’s attempts to subdue the bull.
- Practices, before the bull is released, include prodding the bull with sharp sticks or scythes, extreme bending of the tail which can fracture the vertebrae, and biting of the bull’s tail.
- There are also reports of the bulls being forced to drink alcohol to disorient them, or chilli peppers being rubbed in their eyes to aggravate the bull.
- During attempts to subdue the bull, they are stabbed by various implements such as knives or sticks, punched, jumped on and dragged to the ground.
Why activists seek a ban over it?
- Animal rights activists argue that Jallikattu exploits the bull’s natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation.
- They are forced to run away from the competitors whom they perceive as predators and the practice effectively involves catching a terrified animal.
- Along with human injuries and fatalities, bulls themselves sometimes sustain injuries or die, which people may interpret as a bad omen for the village.
- An investigation by the Animal Welfare Board of India concluded that “Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals”.
Arguments in favour of the sport
- According to its protagonists, it is not a leisure sport available but a way to promote and preserve the native livestock.
- Some believe that the sport also symbolizes a cordial man-animal relationship.