In a world where rants are viral and news has become a channel of instant and sensational gratification, it’s no big surprise that a huge controversy around jallikattu began with Kamal Haasan’s statement on it. That an actor’s statement is what it took to get the whole country buzzing about a serious regional issue also reveals how deeply the urban-rural cultural divide is in our country.
Now, in a fresh development this morning, AIADMK chief Sasikala wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to lift the ban on Jallikattu. AIADMK chief Sasikala’s move may be a shrewd political move to win the hearts of rural Tamilians, as was her demand for Pongal to be made a compulsory holiday. Now the spotlight is once again back on jallikattu. Earlier yesterday, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu had also said that jallikattu is a tradition of Tamil Nadu that others shouldn’t have a problem with but one must also weigh what the courts say.
The tradition of Jallikattu – the taming of bulls – is an ancient tradition and one that is unique to Tamil Nadu’s rural culture. Interestingly, this tradition has been in practice for over 400 years! However, the Supreme Court banned this practice, which is now being talked about again after Kamal Haasan’s statement.
So, what problem did the Supreme Court have with this four hundred-year-old tradition? Let us read what the judgment states and the rationale for the ban:
1. All animals are not anatomically designed to be performing animals, Bulls are essentially draught and pack animals. This means that they are livestock used for farming and agricultural purposes such as ploughing, transportation, etc. This is recognised in the Prevention of Cruelty to Draught and Pack Animal Rules, 1965. Further, Rule 11 says that no person shall use a whip or a stick to force the animal to walk or to hasten the pace of their walk.
[Note – the rule clearly mentions that these animals cannot be forced to hasten the pace of their walk!]
2. Bulls are cloven-footed animals (two digits) animals and two digits in each leg can help them to walk comfortably when they are walking, not running. You cannot compare bulls with horses when it comes to racing events. This is because a horse is a solid-hoofed animal, which can run because of its anatomy.
3. Bulls cannot be performing animals. The Performing Animal Rules 1973 defines “performing animals” to mean any animal which is used at, or for the purpose of any entertainment to which the public are admitted through the sale of tickets.
4. Jallikattu, it was contended, are conducted without the sale of tickets and hence it would not apply. Supreme Court finds no logic in the submission – the sale of tickets is irrelevant from the point of applications of Sections 3 and 11(I) of the PCA Act.
5. Section 11 (1) (m) (ii) says that if any person solely with a view to providing entertainment incites any animal to fight, shall be punishable under the proviso to Section 11 (i). J violates not only the aforementioned sections but also Notification dated 11-7-2011 issued by the Central Government under Section 22 (ii) of the PCA Act.
“Any custom or usage irrespective of even any proof of their existence in pre-constitutional days cannot be countenanced as a source of law to claim any rights when it is found to violate human rights, dignity, social equality and the specific mandate of the Constitution and the law made by the Parliament.” This was held by Supreme Court in N.Adithayan v Tranvancore Devaswom Board (2002) 8 SCC 106.
Okay – so all this is the legal stuff – are you yawning? Wait. More importantly, are you still wondering what possible harm is there in letting the event take place during Pongal?
We may find a cue to this in Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson’s work titled ”Animals in Translations,” which was cited by the Supreme Court in the Jallikkattu judgment.
The passage reads like this: “The single worst thing you can do to an animal emotionally is to make it afraid. Fear is so bad for animals I think it is worse than pain.”
When Kamal Haasan pitched for lifting the ban on jallikattu, you may have missed the fear factor and how it can kill these animals inch by inch. Now you know what this means and think about what choice you can make.
It just wasn’t so obvious before. Now, do you still want the ban on jallikattu to be lifted? Think about it.