The Marina beach in Chennai was witness to a huge, and according to participants, a ‘spontaneous’ rally on Sunday morning as nearly 10,000 people gathered to ‘Save Jallikattu’, asking the Central and State government to do whatever in their means to allow the cultural tradition to continue this Pongal.
The rally was organized by a group of non-political and youth organizations. “There were thousands of students from colleges and IT professionals who had gathered. It was a spontaneous movement. No political party or big group organized this, it was a joint effort by people in the city, to call for help for farmers and bull-owners,” said Balakumar Somu of the Biodiversity Conservation Council of India, which was a participant in the rally and has been lobbying for pro-Jallikattu legislation in the past few years.
Other pro-Jallikattu organizations and groups also participated in the event, which gathered momentum predominantly through social media platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook.
Crowds stretched upto a kilometer long on the beach road in Marina and the event dominated Tamil news channels all morning, with channels beaming live and continuing the programming through the day.
As the festival of Pongal approaches, calls for Jallikattu to be allowed to happen are getting louder in the state. It is during the festival of Pongal that Jallikattu is usually held in several parts of Tamil Nadu.
“Bull Taming” is not just a sport, it is a part of the Indian identity which has been slowly weaned away from us, and today corporates and so-called animal lovers are teaming to put an end to this age-old tradition which has ensured that the best Indian breeds are carried forward and protected for future generations,” says TRB Rajaa, the MLA of Mannargudi, who participated in the rally in an independent capacity.
The Supreme Court of India banned the organizing of Jallikattu under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals act in 2014. Following this, ahead of the 2015 Pongal, the central government issued a notification creating an exception for religious sports like Jallikattu, thereby allowing them to happen. However, organizations like Animal Welfare Board of India and PETA got a stay order on the notification, in effect banning Jallikattu again. This case is now pending at the apex court.
“We cannot demand for a quick verdict from the courts. But we ask that the Centre issue an ordinance allowing Jallikattu again,” says Balakumar Somu, “they should delist the bull from the Performing Animals List. It is not a performing animal to be kept on the list.”
Participants feel that the state government could also pass an ordinance and get it signed by the Governor and the President of India. “But it is the Centre which is in the best position to make this happen,” Somu says.
Farmers associations across Tamil Nadu have expressed happiness with the rally. “We thank the youngsters in the city for organizing the event. Usually it is believed that people in the city don’t care about rural issues. They have showed that’s not the case. At least now the government should do something to allow Jallikattu to happen,” Balakrishna of Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Sangam told Sun News.
Speaking on the same channel, writer Manushiyaputran said that whenever students take up an issue, it gets reinvigorated. “Jallikattu is to protect our culture and native breeds. The Centre has continuously fooled us on this and it is high time they issue an ordinance.”
The unprecedented protests in favour of jallikattu in Tamil Nadu have seen people from across social classes participating in the movement.