Jallikattu protests across Tamil Nadu can no more be seen just as a movement for saving a 2000-year-old sporting tradition. True, the sport is an important part of India’s great cultural tradition. But the unending protests across Tamil Nadu, especially when the matter is pending with the Supreme Court and the state Assembly is not in session, belies the culture cry of protesters and hints at political aspirations powering the movement from behind. The following points may help understand this better.
a) On Tuesday, BJP leader Tarun Vijay joined Jallikattu protesters in Delhi and promised he would bring more youths to support the agitation from Uttarakhand and elsewhere.
b) Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Tamil Nadu chief minister O Paneerselvam on Wednesday. However, nothing concrete could come out of the meeting as the Centre put the onus of taking a decision for allowing Jallikattu on Tamil Nadu with the promise that Modi government will provide all possible help if the state finds itself in a legal soup.
c) The Tamil Nadu CM approached the Centre demanding an Ordinance to make Supreme Court’s ban on Jallikattu ineffective. However, entry 33 of list II (the State List) of the 7th schedule to the Constitution mentions the state can itself introduce an Ordinance on matters related to sports and entertainment, according to former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Katju wrote, “Jallikattu is a sport. So the Tamilnadu government can itself issue an Ordinance to legalise Jallikattu (as the Attorney General also said ), with the restriction that excessive cruelty should not be done to the bull ( like putting chilli in its eyes, or poking it with pointed rods or putting alcohol in its mouth).”
He further said, “Laws can always be made or changed even when a matter is sub judice, and this has often been done, e.g. amendment to the Representation of People Act when Indira Gandhi’s election matter was pending in the Supreme Court.”
It is beyond belief that Tamil Nadu government is not aware of these legal tools. One wonders then as to why the state government is not taking immediate steps to end the protests. One reason the Tamil Nadu government may cite is that the state Assembly is not in session. But then what stops it from issuing a formal letter that the state government would bring in an Ordinance for Jallikattu when the Assembly session starts on January 23.
d) Apart from AIADMK, several political parties including the Congress, Tamil Nadu’s DMK, BJP, PMK and AIMIM have put their weight behind the protests. Instead of making attempts to end the protests, it seems parties are in a race to make some political gains out of it. All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi even raked up the Hindutva and Uniform Civil Code issues today in the context of Jallikattu. “Lesson for Hindutva forces, Uniform Civil Code cannot be “imposed” this nation cannot have one CULTURE we celebrate all,” he tweeted.
With crucial Assembly elections across five states lined up to take place in a few weeks from now, Jallikattu protests have brought complex cultural matters into the limelight. Considering the fact that Jallikattu protests have overshadowed political games in states ahead of elections, as far as media coverage is concerned in the last few days, the agitation would likely have a spillover effect in the polls if it continues for a few more days.
By showing some urgency, the state government can end the protests and restore normalcy immediately. But then, who doesn’t want to benefit from chaos? Jallikattu protests may actually prove to be a good chaos for the new AIADMK leadership under “Chinamma” VK Sasikala, who has come into the limelight following the untimely demise of Jayalalithaa. Her actions in the next few days would be closely watched. On Wednesday an AIADMK leader had told The Indian Express that if state CM fails to introduce a resolution on Jallikattu, AIADMK chief VK Sasikala will do it for the people.
For the BJP-led Centre, any agitation in the name of culture is always a welcome agitation. When the Jallikattu storm ends, it is obvious who will gain the most. But then, who will lose? Maybe, the bull. Days ahead are not so good for animal rights organisations like PETA, who often pursue their own political agenda.