Caught between prevention of cruelty and protecting tradition and local breeds, students take up the cause of Jallikattu

Jallikattu, is a sport where contestants have to hold on to the hump of a bull for the longest time, and try to calm it. As dangerous as it sounds, it has been a Tamil tradition, and people of Tamil Nadu have taken the streets of Chennai, to protest against banning the sport.

For some people of Tamil Nadu, Jallikattu is not just a sport, or centuries old tradition, but it is also the source of their livelihoods. Only Bos inidcus bulls are bred for Jallikattu, and it is an important ceremony for these bulls. After they are well-fed, and trained, they participate in the sport, and depending on their performance in Jallikattu, they are picked for mating with cows, the breed lives on. Also, when native bulls mate with pure breed cows, the cows give A2 milk, which is less in quantity but is full of nutrients, and allergy-free for kids, but is costlier than A1 milk.

A software engineer from Chennai, Revanth Raaj, explained, “The youth of this state are not protesting for any random reason. Whoever is at Marina Beach today knows the need and importance of Jallikattu. The sport energises the bulls, and increases the period of productivity.” He continued, “If Jallikattu is banned, farmers won’t hold on to the breed, as there won’t be any incentives for them.” Famers who train these bulls for Jallikattu get good money, and they also get a huge amount for winning it.

Jallikattu has been around for almost 2,000 to 2,500 years now, and there are photos in historical texts, where people try to embrace the bull. It is practised as part of Pongal celebrations, in the month of January. Though the Supreme Court (SC) banned the sport in 2014, Jallikattu was organised on January 15, 2017 in Andhra Pradesh.

Vignesh, a final-year student at the College of Engineering Guindy, Chennai, said, “Jallikattu is our traditional function, we worship the bulls, and the ban is not to stop the sport, but it is fight for A2 milk, in the corporate world. Jallikattu is not animal cruelty, these cattle are a part of our family.”

While talking about animal cruelty, Raaj added, “The bulls are not injured or harmed during training, external force is not used to aggravate or irritate them, though they do get injured while running around in the play field.”

Thousands of college students have taken part in the protest against the SC judgement, and even classes are cancelled. An official from Anna University, Chennai, said, “All classes are suspended, not because students are protesting, but to avoid issues in campus. We have asked our students to not come for lectures, as we don’t want any clashes.”

These native bulls are also used during the harvest season, and if the sport is banned, farmers will face a crisis, as it will directly affect their livelihood.

SC dismissed the Tamil Nadu government petition in 2016 to lift the ban, and allow Jallikattu. But when O Panneerselvam, became the Chief Minister of the state on December 6, 2016, he vowed to start Jallikattu again. He filed a fresh appeal, and the judgement is awaited by next week.

Elamurugan Vinoth, a mining engineer who is working with Hindustan Zinc limited, said, “It is not just a sport – even in our Tamil literature there are stories of Jallikattu – it is a part of our culture and more. I am against the ban because Jallikattu brings all of us together, there is no caste or religion involved here. We are all one, and we will stand against the ban.”

While PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) approached the SC in 2004, to ban Jallikattu, stating it is animal cruelty, people are suggesting that the organisation should be banned. One twitter user even said that ask PETA to ban slaughtering of animals in the name of religion.

Dr Manilal, from PETA India, said, “PETA does not choose campaigns based on religion. That said, anyone who says we don’t campaign against slaughter simply hasn’t used Google.”

Not only the people of Tamil Nadu but everyone across country now awaits the judgement.

All you need to know about Jallikattu

What is Jallikattu? Why is there a controversy around it?

Jallikattu is banned under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960

What is the relation between Jallikattu and A2 milk?

Jallikattu gets a go-ahead, to be conducted tomorrow after three years