Jallikattu (bull-taming ) is more than a sport for Tamils, especially those in villages. It is linked to rural customs and has religious overtones with families donating bulls to temples as fulfilment of vows. However, increasing restrictions on holding jallikattu is playing spoilsport according to organisers, bull owners and ardent fans of the sport, which traditionally commences as part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.
The 400-year-old sport had a free run until a few years ago. However, reports of injuries and deaths bull-tamers and spectators as well as tales of cruelty perpetrated on the jallikattu bulls brought the sport under the glare of animal rights activists and the administration. Soon followed curbs on conducting the sport as the state government passed the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu (TNRJ) Act, 2009.
Traditionally, the sport was conducted in almost every village in the state during the harvest festival of Pongal, claimed jallikattu organisers. However, with the rules in force and animal lovers on toes to report on any violation of norms, the number of jallikattu events in villages has come down. “Prior to 2006, jallikattu was held in 2,000 villages, but this number declined to half the next year. In 2007, 1,000 villages organised it. The figures for 2008, 2009 and 2010 were 100, 75 and 60 respectively. In the last three years, only 30 villages organised the sport,” said V Rajasekaran, state president of Jallikattu Peravai.
Jallikattu is permitted only in gazette-notified places in the state from January to May under the TNRJ Act. Though, the gazette has a list of 188 places identified, it was held only in 30 places in the last three years, pointing to the waning interest in organising the sport. “Villagers conducted jallikattu on Mattu Pongal day. It was held in around 2,000 villages until it got embroiled in the 2006 court case,” said Ondiraj, the state secretary of the Tamil Nadu Veera Vilayattu Jallikattu Padukappu Nala Sangam . In 2006, a case was filed against the sport by animal welfare activists at the Madurai bench of the Madras high court seeking complete ban on the event, saying it results in cruelty to animals and participants. The TNRJ Act was passed in this context . The seven-year-old case is still pending in the Supreme Court.
On July 11, 2011 Indian government issued a notification under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, barring bulls from being exhibited or trained for performances. This directive too has been challenged in the apex court.
“We hope a good result from the court. The case will come up for hearing on January 24,” said Rajasekaran. At present jallikattu is conducted as per Supreme Court guidelines and the TNRJ Act.
“Thirty-five places in Madurai, 94 in Pudukkottai and 17 in Trichy are among the notified locations. In 2013, it was held in nine villages in Dindigul, seven in Sivagangai, five in Madurai, two each in Trichy, Pudukkottai and Theni and one village in Karur,” said Rajasekaran. However, not even a single event was held in Thanjavur, Perambalur, Ariyalur and Virudhunagar ,” he said.
The above news article is from ‘The Times of India’ – Chennai (Online version) dated Dec 28, 2013.
Link to the original article : http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-12-28/chennai/45651702_1_jallikattu-organisers-jallikattu-bulls-jallikattu-peravai