Home arrow Archives arrow Round the World arrow Round The World-2015 arrow Ban on Jallikattu: TOWARDS HUMANISING SPORTS, By S Saraswathi, 20 Jan, 2016
News and Features
INFA Digest
Parliament Spotlight
Journalism Awards
Ban on Jallikattu: TOWARDS HUMANISING SPORTS, By S Saraswathi, 20 Jan, 2016 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi. 20 January 2016

Ban on Jallikattu


By S Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)


The Supreme Court’s ban on holding Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport, is causing grievous disappointment and anger to some very vocal sections of people of Tamil Nadu who were preparing to organize the sport considered by them as an indispensable part of Pongal festival. In fact, there are reports of some having defied the ban in a few villages, with authorities looking the other way.


Interestingly, a rare unity is being witnessed today among principal political parties in the State – the AIADMK, DMK, BJP, PMK, DMDK, Nam Tamilar and many other small parties – in favour of reviving this rural sport in danger of extinction. There is a demand that the government issue an Ordinance to bypass the Court stay, which is a big blow to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which had lifted the ban on this sport imposed by the Supreme Court in 2014. 


The recent stay was granted on a petition filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO), People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA) against the notification of the Ministry removing bulls from the list of performing animals under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act. It was but reiteration of the stand taken by the Supreme Court in 2014 to affirm the supremacy of the Constitutional principle enshrined in Article 51A (g) and (h), and to protect the rights and welfare of animals.


Jallikattu is an age-old traditional bull-taming sport event common in villages in Tamil Nadu especially in the southern districts. Its history is traced with pride to medieval kingdoms and even to ancient period to emphasize its antiquity and its status as a cultural heritage. From olden days, it is a game played between men and bulls to bring the latter under control. The combat displays courage and strength of men and the game itself is dubbed as “game of valour of Tamilians”.


The spirit of the game has been sustained over centuries and stories of women opting to marry the winners are heard. Even in some recent films in which top stars have acted, scenes of jallikattu have been included to highlight the heroism of the hero.


The sport has almost become an industry in which bull owners have a high stake. Special and rare breeds of bulls are raised and trained to make the sport more and more exciting. Prizes given to the winners have also increased manifold and are in the form of cash and kind and include gold coins, modern gadgets, and household articles.


Following the Supreme Court’s ban order on jallikattu, a Division bench of the Kerala High Court declared that this would be applicable to certain games like Kannupootu, Kaalapootu, and Maramadi played in the State with animal participants. So also, cock fight has been prohibited.


According to the information from the Jallikattu Peravai, the sport is held in 175 villages across 17 districts as part of Pongal festivities, and is also an “irreplaceable part of temple festivals and that is why the ban has affected the sentiments of people”. Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated all over Tamil Nadu with great enthusiasm by people of all castes.


It is common knowledge that bulls participating in jallikattu are made to undergo severe training and special rearing. But, animal rights groups complain that bulls are forced to drink alcohol, and tortured to make them aggressive and ferocious. First hand reports mention unspeakable forms of cruelty inflicted on these animals though supporters of the sport deny all allegations. But, the truth remains that the more vigorous the combat meaning the more violent the bulls, the greater is the excitement in the game. 


Rights activists have reason to condemn this game as one not exhibiting ‘valour” in the proper sense of the term, but a crude combat between an animal and men resembling the cruel games played in the ancient Roman empire. Other opponents include the Communist parties and a section of the Congress. Former Prime Minister of the UPA government extended support to the campaign against bull-fighting, but not to jallikattu. Former Union Environment minister described this sport as a “barbaric practice” and termed government notification as a “complete contempt of the order of the Supreme Court”. The TNCC President tries to distinguish jallikattu from bull-fighting to push the point that the game involves no necessary cruelty to the animal.


A committee constituted by the Union government to revise green laws has recommended that traditional faiths and practices may be allowed thus giving green signal to the game which has not impressed the Court. Farmers, bull-tamers and active participants from Tamil Nadu and neighbouring States have thus intensified their protest against the ban obviously with the hope of reviving the game at least with severe regulations in near future if not in this Pongal season.


Strict regulations and vigilance imposed in 2007 over jallikattu events and enacted as a law in 2009 are said to have eliminated ill-treatment of animals. But, this argument is rejected by anti-jallikattu groups. The game, by its very structure and conduct, brings out the “animal spirit” not only in players and bull owners, but also in the spectators watching and encouraging the combatants.


In the San Fermin festival played in Spain, which is often cited for comparison, either the man or the bull would die in the game. The goal in jallikattu is taming of the bull and death and injuries are caused not intentionally but incidentally. 


May be, jallikattu enthusiasts may take offence at any attempt to compare the game with gladiators or to the story of Androcles and the Lion. But, we are referring to the common element of uncivilized sport involving cruelty mistaken as “valour”. As in the case of many old traditions and practices given up as repugnant to modern standards, people should voluntarily come forward to give up inhuman feudal way of life and cultivate humane games and sports.


To stick to jallikattu as if it is a primary aspect of Tamil culture and traditions is a kind of superstition. In a way, it is degrading the refinement of Tamil cultural traditions. It is high time that the Indian society should learn to move with the times. No progress and no reforms are possible unless we are prepared to welcome changes. Nor is the argument that urban artificiality is being forced on rural culture is acceptable. Our endeavour is to bridge rural-urban gap in all spheres in every sense.


In the case of jallikattu, an interesting factor is broad consensus among political parties (with few exceptions) on revoking the ban, which again is guided by a mistaken notion of popular demand.  Majority of the people of Tamil Nadu have watched this game only on the screen.


Political, social, and religious leaders must come forward and unite to promote legal rights and welfare concepts. They have to act as leaders in the matter of reforms and not as followers of outmoded traditions in pursuit of popularity to collect votes. Leaders must have the courage to take even unpopular decisions and the ability to convince the people. They must grasp the ban on jallikattu as a step towards humanizing sports – a cause worth pursuing. ---INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)











< Previous   Next >
  Mambo powered by Best-IT