A brief introduction of rural sports of Tamilnadu:
Tamilnadu is famous for the cultural sports activities. Kabadi is a common man’s game which anybody can take part and which involves enough muscle strength and retention of breath. Another game which is worth mentioning is Gilli which is the fore runner of modern cricket game wherein only two sticks are used by players, the longer stick as bat and the smaller one as the ball. Rural folks from Tamil land are famous for ‘silambattam’ meaning fighting with long stick. These games involve only human players. The game Jallikkattu involves Bulls being tamed by human force and which remains as the symbol of Tamil culture from time immemorial. Only because animals are part of the game animal lovers portrayed it as cruelty to animals and Government of India banned it. There is a huge protest all over Tamilnadu to restore the sports saying that it is a blow to the long living Tamil culture. In addition to cultural issues, the issue involves several complicated issues like a ban on PETA, against opening market to international companies, banning of bottled drinks etc. A brief account on the real issues involved are given in this article.
What is ‘jallikkattu?’
Though jallikkattu is a game of taming of the bulls, the translation of the word is different. A treasure of coins (jalli) would be tied in a cloth bundle (Kattu) to the hump of the raging bulls. The bold youth in dozens would try to tame the bull, most of them fail, the brave one who tames the bull by embracing the hump, thereby bringing the bull under perfect control. It is for this reason the game is otherwise known in ancient Tamil literature “Eru (Bull) thazuvudhal (embracing)”.
In fact it is a dangerous game which involves danger to human lives. The Horns are usually sharpened like pointed knives and most of the times they pierce and many youth had died in this sports. Certain bulls are reserved only for this purpose and are fed sumptuously for the entire year. The bull taming function will be held on “Mattu pongal” (bull festival following the harvest festival which usually falls on 15th January every year). The practice of young and pretty girls garlanding and marrying only those youth who tame the most adamant bull is still in vogue in some parts of the South. Both the winner (prospective bridegroom) and the tamed bull be brought in procession all-round the village and will be poured with gifts and ornaments.
The principal cause for the agitation:
PETA (India)( People for Ethical Treatment to Animals) is the Indian chapter of the International organisation with headquarters at New York (U.S). They are working for the welfare of animals by fighting against cruelty to animals. They presented their case at Madurai court and got a ban against jallikkattu in 2014 for the simple reason that animals cannot be used for entertainment. So Jallikkattu had not been held for two consecutive years of 2015 and 2016. But this year, people were adamant that jallikkattu should be held without fail on Mattu Pongal day (15.1.2017). Honourable judge did not give a favourable judgement. From 17.1.17, students assembled in lakhs at Marina, Chennai and other centres like Madurai, Coimbatore, Salem, Trichy and more importantly at Alanganallur. (The main place where jallikkattu were held). The students assembled in lakhs and were having silent protest who were later joined by non-students also. The world famous Marina beach had an assembly of nearly a million protesters.
Certain special features of the protest:
The protest had several special features. Firstly it did not have any specific organiser. Messages were sent by electronic gadgets using face book, what’s up and people converged of their own. It did not have any political backing nor political leader to lead them. This agitation may be called first of its kind using only I.T support. Students were having sit-in demonstration for six days without any mishap.
Demands made by the protesters:
They wanted complete restoration of Jallikkattu I.e the game of taming of bull as held in years prior to January 2015. But soon, the demand culminated in total ban of PETA in India.
What were the grievances against PETA?:
The agitators alleged that PETS, in the name of Ethical treatment to animals are spreading foreign products in India thereby annihilating indigenous produce. These include purified water bottles, drinks, snack and so on. They were compared to East India Company, who in the pretext of having business contacts brought entire India under their control which was later taken over by British Kingdom. Curiously enough, PETA, instead of allaying the genuine fear and promoting their mission, put some valueless arguments in their favour. Local leaders of PETA gave interviews which added fuel to fire.
The agitation continued for 6 days. The most noteworthy feature of the agitation was that it was held as a peaceful demonstration like that of Gandhi. After six days, the agitators got victory in getting a law passed in the legislative assembly for holding jallikkattu as usual.
It is too early to state that the victory is final. There may be legal obstacles to follow.
Yet, in post independent India, for the first time, a peaceful demonstration without any religious, caste or political bias had been held with success. Another most noteworthy aspect is that it was not guided by politicians nor it had any particular leadership. It was fully a voluntary participation by students using electronic gadgets alone as their aid for their fight for restoration of their right to play the sport.
Really, it is a good beginning.