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.
- Jallikattu: a popular bull-taming sport held alongside annual harvest festivities in rural Tamil Nadu
- A macho sport in which young men demonstrate their valour by pouncing on fleeing bulls
- Why banned? Need to prevent cruelty to animals overrides the consideration that conducting the sport was necessary to preserve culture and tradition
- The game caused distress and pain to the animals, and led to injuries and occasional fatalities
- Cultural and religious significance for Tamil community: Over the years, tradition was kept alive in many villages
- This was due to a belief that not conducting jallikattu would invite divine wrath
- The court sticks to the stand that it would not allow any cruelty in the name of holding a rural sport
- What: The SC dismissed a review petition filed by Tamil Nadu to review a 2014 apex court judgment banning Jallikattu
- Why: The Bench said “taming a bull” to perform in an event runs counter to the concept of welfare of the animal
- Animal welfare is the basic foundation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960
- The court threw out Tamil Nadu’s argument that the ban affected the fundamental right to religion under Article 25
- Previous judgement: In 2014 the SC had banned Jallikattu after declaring it to be an act of “inherent cruelty”
- Context: Tamil Nadu argued that if the Spanish Senate can in 2013 find the “far more cruel” sport of bull-fighting a cultural heritage, there is nothing wrong in farmers practising Jallikattu
- The State then said that ‘Jalli’ is the name of a ‘Yadav brave man with history dating back to the period of Lord Krishna’
- To all such appeals made in the name of ‘age-old tradition’, SC countered with the argument that child marriage too was once an ‘age-old tradition’
A strictly regulated and independently audited jallikattu where suffering caused to bulls is minimised is the way to go.
- Amendment to the statutory rules under PCA, prevention of cruelty to animals act, barred bulls from being “exhibited or trained as performing animal”
- To neutralise SC ban, govt allowed Jallikattu & bullock-cart races “practised traditionally under the customs or culture” which supreme court stayed.
- Court viewed the PCA act through an “ecocentric” perspective as distinguished from an “anthropocentric” angle.
- That this act outlawed “infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering on the animals”
- But inclusion of bulls in the category of performing animals is ill-founded.
- The other animals in that list are monkeys, bears, lions, panthers and tigers — wild animals that have never been part of the rural, agrarian ecosystem.
- Festival can also be protected on grounds that it is an unquestionable part of intangible cultural heritage.
Tension prevailed in Vadavalam village in Pudukottai district as some villagers allegedly pelted the police with stones.
- Defying the SC ban on conducting jallikattu, a bull taming sport, organisers in some interior villages went ahead with the event challenging the district administration and police to take action.
- In a few places, instead of the bull taming sport, organisers conducted ‘eruthattam’ (bull chase).
- The villagers allegedly brought bulls to the local temple under the pretext of offering worship but tried to use them to organise jallikattu.
- Officials of the Animal Welfare Board of India said the inaction of authorities in dealing with those who openly defied the court order amounted to contempt of judiciary.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued an interim stay on the Centre’s January 2016 notification allowing Jallikattu and bullock cart races.
- The Bench of Justices prima facie agreed with the arguments made by a batch of petitioners, led by Animal Welfare Board of India.
- That Jallikattu is “inherently cruel” and bulls cannot be used or tortured as performing animals for human festivity.
- A stay on the January 7 notification means that the 2014 SC judgment banning jallikattu will continue to prevail during Pongal starting on January 15.
- Admitting the petitions, the Bench gave the TamilNadu Government and the Centre 4 weeks to file affidavits in response to the petitions.
Pressure was brought to bear upon the Board by the Ministry when it decided to move against the January 7 notification.
- Till the SC stayed the Centre’s ‘Pongal gift’ to Tamil Nadu, there were some anxious moments at the Animal Welfare Board of India, which challenged the Ministry’s decision to allow jallikattu.
- Lawyers for the Animal Welfare Board of India had fought for the cause of protecting the bulls pro bono.
- The Board members are appointed for 3 years and it has provision for 6 MPs from Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha.
- The SC agreed to hear a batch of petitions moved by the Board seeking to quash the January 7 notification issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests allowing jallikattu.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur agreed to hear the petitions on an urgent basis on January 12.
- The SC on Monday agreed to hear on January 12 a batch of petitions led by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
- Seeking to quash a January 7, 2016 notification issued by the MoEF, allowing the exhibition and use of bulls as performing animals for jallikattu and bullock-cart races.
- The petitions contended that the Centre cannot legalise a sport inherently causing pain and distress to dumb animals.
- By merely saying that bulls used for jallikattu (bull-taming sport) should not be subjected to cruelty.
- They questioned the notification’s justification to allow the return of jallikattu for cultural and traditional reasons.
Centre ignores Attorney-General Rohatgi’s advice against move
- The Centre issued a notification to permit jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s traditional bull-taming sport, ahead of the Pongal festival.
- The notification overturns a 2011 notification that prohibited the exhibition or training of bulls, and some other animals, as performing animals.
- The Supreme Court had in 2014 upheld the 2011 government order.
- Now, few guidelines added to regulate, these events shall take place in these areas at such places as the district magistrate or collector explicitly permits,
- That the bull once out of the enclosure shall be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metres.
- The banned bull taming sport of ‘Jallikattu,’ native to Tamil Nadu and performed during the Pongal festival was discussed at a meeting of the Union Cabinet.
- Govt. is finding the way to allow the event as most political parties have come out in its support.
- Earlier, the SC had banned the sport, and had said that any decision on the sport now needs to be taken after consultation with the Animal Welfare Board.
- Jallikattu is a bull taming sport – organised during Pongal since the Sangam age.
- Coin bags & other prizes are tied to bull’s horn – men try to grab the prizes.
- SC last year banned the sport and all bullock cart races.
Discuss: Talking of races, an elephant race held at the Guruvayur temple at Kerala where winning elephant gets the honour to carry Thidambu (deity)!
Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.
Jallikattu is derived from the words ‘calli’ (coins) and ‘kattu’ (tie), which means a bundle of coins is tied to the bull’s horns. In older times, the tamer sought to remove this bundle from the animal’s head to win gold or silver.
The southern parts of Tamil Nadu witness bull-taming the most, with Alanganallur near Madurai hosting the largest and most famous of these events.
- Factors against the ban
- Arguments favouring the ban
- View of SC
- What can government do?
- International experience
- Way ahead
Factors against the ban
- Jallikattu is an ancient sport which has continued since colonial times. So it is an ancient tradition which should be preserved and not banned.
- In Jallikattu, the objective is to obtain the ‘Jallikattu’ a pouch which contains the reward coins called ‘Jalli’ tied to the horns of the bulls. While the players are not allowed to carry weapons of any kind or wear protective gears, the bulls on the other hand will not have nose rings or ropes.
- Plus, they’re equipped with a pair of sharp horns which can gore a human within seconds. So it’s actually the bull which has the upper hand in this match.
- Jallikattu is what’s keeping the native breed of cows from going extinct, according to some local people which is a huge problem for western cattle industry.
Arguments favouring the ban
- During Jallikattu, bulls are purposefully scared and petrified and then made to run across the crowd, destroying anything that would come in their way. Various cruel means are adopted to scare and anger the bull like pinching, nailing, stabbing with sticks that have nails at the edges, twisting their tails and even forcefully making them drink alcohol and other drugs. The ropes around their nose are painfully yanked and then they are dragged into the crowd of people who further anger the bull.
- According to the documents by PETA, these bulls also break their bones in order to escape from the crowd continuously trying to toture them. Casualty and death of humans are also alarmingly high during this game.
- What started as a simple act of bravado has become an act of cruelty towards animals.
- The bulls are kept in the waiting area for hours, subjecting it to the scorching sun. The bulls used in the sport are also denied food and water.
- Due to this sport, innumerable human lives, both of the participants and the audience, have also been lost, as the bulls try to flee from the pain.
View of SC
- Supreme court in 2014 banned the sport jallikattu as it violates provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) and militates the constitutional duty of treating animals with compassion, Article 51A (g).
- It also reiterated the expansive reading it had given in the past, to Article 21 (Right to Life), which prohibits any disturbance to the environment, including animals, considered essential for human life.
What can government do?
The Government must find alternate methods to continue it without hurting the animal or people. Following are some of the alternatives:
- Follow the famous Spanish bullfighting example where measures taken to avoid lethal damage
- Put effective protection (barricades, speaker announcements, clear demarcation) so that people are not hurt
- Create awareness regarding apathy faced by animals. Sports personalities, film stars, eminent jurists can come forward
- The tradition of bullfighting in Spain is cited to legitimise the conduct of Jallikattu and present it as a viable tourist attraction.
- It is significant that the Spanish state of Catalonia banned the sport in 2012 after a prolonged ‘culture versus rights’ debate.
- In 2002, Germany took animal rights to a new level by giving animals constitutional protection.
- Those who want the sport to be legalised have called for an amendment to the PCA Act and measures to revoke the 2011 notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) which barred the use of bulls as performing animals.
- Trying to allow an event that legitimises cruelty to animals would be a direct insult to the carefully reasoned writ of the Supreme Court, a complete negation of the PCA Act and its objectives, and would take the country back by a few steps in the crucial area of Right to Life.