The Supreme Court is the highest authority when it comes to the judiciary system in the country. Its decision cannot be challenged by any court or entity except the apex court itself. This can be done if by filing review petition of the judgement given by the Supreme Court. In May 2014, the Supreme Court passed a judgement is the favour of the Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA, directing that bulls must not be used for certain sports like jallikattu, bullfights, and races, effectively putting a ban on the ‘cultural’ phenomena of the Tamil society. In January 2016, the Modi-government revokes the ban but is challenged by PETA among other animal welfare organisations, after which the apex court stays the government notification. However, the Tamil Nadu government filed a plea to unban the sport and was dismissed by the Supreme Court in November 2016.
So the sport of jallikattu was banned, unbanned, challenged, reviewed and banned again. Now, it might hurt the sentiments of a major section of the Indian society, who have come out in large numbers on a beach protesting peacefully citing culture and the various benefits of the bull taming sport. The matter which is still sub-judice, which means the ban was still intact as of January 12, when the Supreme Court said that it would not give a verdict to permit the sport on Pongal, January 14, 2017. Two days later, Alanganallur village of Madurai organised the sport as the sign of protest. Thousands gathered on Marina beach in Chennai protesting against the SC ban. These protests were backed by the filmstars of the intellect of Kamal Haasan, the stardom of Rajnikanth, cricketers and politicians alike to put an ordinance in place lifting the ban imposed by the Supreme Court.
On January 21, 2017, the Tamil Nadu state government passes an ordinance allowing jallikattu to be organised in the state followed by the Modi government’s approval. And since the issue comes under the concurrent list of the constitution, a simple signature from the centre was required for such a legislation. Now, jallikattu is organised and a couple are reported dead and then protesters move to a new agenda to find a permanent solution.
Although, if we ignore the violence that followed, all in all, it could be considered as one of the most well organised, peaceful and successful protest in Indian history since independence, which is commendable, albeit one might ask if Supreme Court is the highest authority, and one single protest was enough for the governments to bend the law around its decision, what example it truly sets for the rest of the country.
Let us look around for a change. In Karnataka, farmers and politicians, (BJP and Congress) alike have been asking the Centre to lift the ban on the Kambala buffalo race. Well, obviously there is a culture to adhere to but there is also this minor issue of the 2018 assembly elections and political ambitions at hand. The high court had banned Kambala in November 2016 after PETA had filed a case.
Maharashtra has also called for the return of the bullock cart race during the Ganesh Chaturthi; also banned by the Supreme Court in 2014. According to report by HT, Shiv Sena MP ShivajiRao Adhalrao Patil has asked CM Devendra Fadnavis to talk o the PM to circumvent the ban. The Shiv Sena has also confessed about their plans of taking the protests to every corner of the state. Considering the Shiv Sena’s history and concept of protests, it would be one Mahatma Gandhi would take pride in.
Assam sees the sport of bulbul fighting every year during the festival of Bihu. Siva Prasad Sarma, chief priest of the Hayagrib-Madhab temple in Hajo said that they have not conducted the sport since 2016 owing to the SC order but “no one has the right to interfere with our tradition”. It must be noted that the bulbul is an endangered species and the birds are captured and trained and fed to prepare for the fight and are then made to fight till one of them dies.
Andhra Pradesh’s infamous cock fights might also see protests in its favour. The sport involves massive betting and the owners put everything behind to make their birds ferocious. The birds are fed a special diet and are often injected with muscle hormones. It has also been reported that some owners attach blades and knives to the birds’ limbs to show more blood, making the fight more brutal.
These are just a few of the many banned sports in India involving animals. And while these sports are certainly a part of the tradition and culture as they have been organised over a period of centuries, well, humans did live in the jungles once upon a time. We don’t see that happening, do we? Besides, the jallikattu ordinance has become a beacon of hope for those who want to practice every other ‘tradition’ that has been banned by the court. And in doing so, Tamil Nadu has set the nation on a dangerous precedent to an organised form of anarchy.