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.
There have also been instances of members from the police force taking part in the protests even as they’d been stationed at the site on duty. Images of policemen distributing food and water to the protesters have also been doing the rounds on social media.
An electrifying speech given by a policeman during the protests at Marina beach in Chennai shows how deeply emotional the issue is to the people of Tamil Nadu.
If we let the bull that has been with us for thousands of years to die, how can we say we’re Tamilians? There are babies in this world who have not had mother’s milk, but are there any babies in this world who have not had cow’s milk? They keep saying farmer-farmer…this is an issue that’s important to the farmers. Is a government who doesn’t understand, is this a government at all? What is natural farming? The farmer puts water, cowdung and prepares the land. But now how do they do farming? The soil has been killed by using artificial chemicals. Next, they’re going to kill the cows by stopping jallikattu.
We’re going to the next state and begging for water. The farmer is dying of debt because he doesn’t have water for cultivation. What answer are you going to give for all this? There are many police personnel like me in this crowd. People wearing uniforms who have the desire to speak about this like I have. There are many cops who didn’t go home last night and sleep but have worn civil dress and have remained in this crowd. I have come on their behalf also. I agree that the police has so far never participated in such protests. But I’ve participated now because I understand the seriousness of this issue and want action to be taken.”
The Times of India reports that Mathiazhagan is from Ramanathapuram and that when senior police officials heard about his speech, they rushed towards him and asked him to get back to duty. They have, however, assured the protesters that no action will be taken against him.
Another policeman in Pudhukottai who participated in the protests was interviewed by Puthiya Thalaimurai channel. He said:
“There is nobody instigating me to be part of this protest. It is my Tamil identity. It is the Tamil I studied which brought me here. It is the Tamil in my blood. The people fighting here, not caring about hunger, are fighting for their rights. I’m also a Tamilian. Why should I stay away? When my people are going hungry, why should I stay away? I should also participate.
I’m an educated youth. I work for the police force. The central government and PM Modi have to definitely permit jallikattu for the people. This is about our Tamil identity. According to Article 29(1) of our laws, no government can deny a people their cultural traditions. The PM has to do it. We have to save our bull, we have to save our Tamil identity. My blood is boiling for this.”
The police has been appreciative of the crowd’s peaceful and cooperative behaviour.
RJ Balaji’s speech at the Marina, crediting the protesters for getting the government to pass the emergency ordinance was greeted with wild cheers. “It’s not the 39 MPs we elected who have done this, it is you!” he said. He also said that revolution had happened in Egypt but that this was the first time such a thing was happening in India after the Independence movement.
Chennai: Social media appeared to have played a key role in bringing together thousands of pro-Jallikattu protesters to the sprawling Marina Beach in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu, with updates on the ongoing students’ spontaneous stir and messages flooding the platform.
Sites including Facebook were awash with “Let us be united”, “We want Jallikattu,” and “I support Jallikattu” pages, which together account for lakhs of followers, who kept commenting on the evolving situation and pressing their cause.
Facebook pages like “Jallikattu veeravilayattu,” specially designed to spread messages on the bull-taming sport and protest across the state were active with live updates.
Special folk songs were uploaded and real time pictures, videos of protests were posted regularly which helped the information reach more and more people, prompting several of them to join hands.
For instance, a social media user Manikandan uploaded pictures of protest between Madurai and Theni in ‘Jallikattu veeravilayattu’ Facebook page.
A college student here, R Sukumar, said he joined the protests on the Marina Beach responding to a campaign in Facebook by several other students.
Balakumar Somu, in his Facebook post said, “I see protests in so many places, from the metros to small towns & villages. So happy to be a part of the enlightened Tamil youth @Tirupur (Collector’s office).”
Also, posts like “No Jallikattu, no vote” and “save native cattle” dominated social media sites.
Each Jallikattu protest and information related to it got thousands of “likes” on Facebook.
A blogger said, “Jallikattu is not bullfight…PeTA should stop equating the sport with bull fighting.”
In Twitter, hashtags like “justice for jallikattu,” “save our culture jallikattu” continued to trend through the day with countless messages.
Also, messages like “I can arrange dinner, lunch for protestors,” “I can provide drinking water please contact…” were also abound, indicating how the students were organising and managing the protests.
(From left top clockwise) BalakumarSomu, Karthikeya Sivasenapathy, P Rajasekaran and Himakiran Anugula are the key faces behind the hi-tech Jallikattu campaign in Chennai.(HT Photo)The spontaneous Jallikattu uprising in Tamil Nadu is in fact the result of four years of sustained hard work by a group of men who used modern communication tools to garner support for the protest.
It all began with a modest protest on Marina beach with 15 participants in 2013 that has now become a mass movement in Tamil Nadu. These warriors roped in youths, cutting across caste, class and region barriers, and encourage them to join the mass agitation.
Himakiran Alagula is a professional from Chennai with rural roots and is an owner of a bull. In 2013, he got interested in Jallikattu and got in touch with Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Federation president P Rajasekharan, who has been fighting for the sport for over 10 years.
Alagula also teamed up with Karthikeya Sivasenapathy, who heads the Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation near Tirupur. Slowly others began to join the fight.
Another professional and businessman from Coimbatore, Balakumar Somu, too, joined the team that prepared the blueprint for the battle.
“We organised seminars, workshops, cattle fairs, meetings, and distributed pamphlets and reading material among college and school students, educating them about the native breeds, agricultural practices. And when they realized the true reason for holding Jallikattu, more support started pouring in,” said Alagula.
Over the years, support for the three organisations — Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Federation, Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation and Biodiversity Conservation Council of India (formed by professionals in India and abroad) — grew and what you see on the Marina beach or in different parts of the state is a result of a sustained effort since 2013, Alagula said.
“It is the failure of the central government to facilitate the native sport and the abusive campaign carried out by PETA against the Tamils that exploded into an outburst of emotional protest,” said Alagula.
“We created awareness through Twitter and Facebook, seminars in colleges and lectures at institutions. The real spark that ignited the anger of the people was the abusive negative campaign by PETA and central government’s indifference,” said another Jallikattu warrior.
WhatsApp, too, came handy for the campaigners.
It was a television programme in January last year that the warriors dominated. It was followed by Hiphop Tamizha, who did a Tamil video song that went viral. It garnered more support from within India and abroad.
Sri Ganesh, the Chennai-coordinator for the Chennai Memes, one of the sites that was extensively used by Jallikattu warriors to spread their message said, “Jallikattu is our cultural heritage. It’s not just one generation at Marina beach, but Tamils from all ages and backgrounds.
“A righteous person follows ahimsa or non-violence to any living being by thought, word or deed and possesses tolerance towards others with an unperturbed mind even if they are antagonistic.” – Bhagavad Gita
Of late, It has become a fad to ridicule Hinduism. The oldest and most tolerant religion which never professes propagation is at the receiving end from every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to make a fashion statement.
It has reached such a state today that anything associated with Hinduism is branded as ‘backward’, ‘superstitious’, ‘illiterate’ or even ‘barbaric’. Similar traditions and customs followed by the religious minorities are encouraged under the garb of ‘minority rights’ (read secularism). The very same self-professed, know-all intellectuals are scared to open their mouth about the customs and traditions of the minorities for fear of incurring their wrath.
Ingrained with the virtue of tolerance, Hindus just tolerate any kind of abuse thrown at them. With no single God, no single scripture and no single path to follow, Hinduism gives its followers maximum freedom to follow their chosen path. This benign aspect, considered a boon to its followers, is now their bane. They have been conditioned to tolerate anything thrown at them. If at all they make any noise, the intellectuals paint the issue as ‘caste’ based. ‘Caste’ being taboo, Hindus become reluctant to associate themselves with the issue.
One of the major assaults on Hinduism in recent times, is PETA’s affront on Hindus’ relationship with the Cow. Unlike the Western world which views its cows as walking hamburgers, the cow is considered sacred to Hindus. Cow is worshipped as ‘Kamadhenu’, the God that grants all wishes. ‘Nandi’, a bull, is Lord Shiva’s companion and stands in penance overlooking Lord Shiva in all his temples. Most Hindus are vegetarian and those who are not do not eat beef. Being predominantly farmers, their major relationship with the animal world has been with cattle. Cows have been reared for milk and bulls/ oxen, their work companions.
Hindus celebrate several festivals throughout the year to honour their cattle. The most prominent among them being ‘Makar Sankranti’ celebrated all over India. It is celebrated as ‘Pongal’, the harvest festival, in Tamilnadu, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives and by Tamils all over the world.
Honouring the Cow, including bulls, oxen and calves, is a part of all Hindu religious festivals. They are decked with colourful garlands, horns painted and brought to temples for puja. A puja is also done to the cow. During a house-warming ceremony, a Cow and a calf are the first ones that enter into the house, as Hindus believe that Cow is the mother of all Gods. Temples in South India have statues of their temple bulls. There are even temples built for bulls. Hindus also honour the cow by having some innocuous activities associated with the temple festivals like ‘Jallikattu’, ‘Eruthottam’, bullock cart racing, bull racing, cattle shows etc.
One such sport, ‘Jallikattu’, is conducted in the Indian states Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra pradesh, during local temple festivals, and also during Pongal. This is a harmless humal-animal contact sport that is conducted as a part of the temple festivities and not an individual sport conducted for entertainment. It has over 4000 years of recorded history. The bull is usually let loose on the temple grounds. The ‘prize’, if it can be called that, is usually a towel tied between its horns. Unarmed sportsmen who get hold of the towel will be declared victor. If the bulls returns home – the bull usually finds its way back home by itself – with the towel intact, the bull is considered the winner. Almost every temple in the 13 districts, constituting the ‘Jallikattu belt’, of Tamilnadu have permanent structures called ‘Vadi’ or the ‘starting gates’ for the bulls, standing evidence to the fact that this was indeed a part and parcel of Hindu tradition.
This historic sport is now the target of a sinister campaign by PETA which seems to have some hidden agenda in getting the sport banned. PETA has succeeded in getting this traditional sport banned by taking the legal route. PETA has been throwing all kinds of wild allegations against the innocuous temple tradition. PETA has been vilifying the harmless sport as ‘barbaric’ and has been further misleading the public, majority of whom have never visited or seen a Jallikattu, by equating this to spanish bull fights. Unlike bull fights taking place in other parts of the world, where the bull is tortured and killed, in Jallikattu the bull is not harmed at all. The tamil name ‘Aeru Thazhuvudal’ translates to ‘Embracing the Bull’! That is the true spirit of the game. The sportsman tries to embrace the bull by its hump – trying to hold the bull by its horns, neck, leg or tail will lead to disqualification – for a maximum of about 5 to 10 seconds.
When travelling across the rural countryside of Tamilnadu, one would come across numerous statues of temple bulls built inside the temple premises. These statues are usually built about a year after the death of the temple bull. They usually sport the real horns of the bull, exhumed in an elaborate ceremony conducted after about a year. The Hindus worship these bulls as God – when alive and even after they die. Death of a temple bull is considered as a loss of a family member of the whole village. All the villagers gather and perform the last rites for the temple bull as they would do when their bretheren passes away. Religious and non-religious festivals like marriages are not celebrated for the next 16 days as the village goes into mourning.
To achieve its goal of getting this Hindu religious activity banned, PETA has resorted to character assasination of not just the sport, but also Hindus and Tamils. One of the major allegation by PETA is that this tradition is not associated with Hinduism at all! PETA says it is not associated with religious activities. If this was true, then why do all these temples have permanent ‘Vadis’ (bull starting gates)? If it is not a Hindu religious practice, then why do all temple festivals include ‘Jallikattu’ as a part of the festivities? Why do all the temple festivals include honouring the bull? Why are there ‘Temple Bulls’ in the first place? Why are the ‘Temple Bulls’ given the honour of starting the ‘Jallikattu’?
PETA which is an American organisation, according to their own admission, kills over 4 million innocent puppies and kitten every year. What right does such a mass murderer like PETA have to preach Hindus on what traditions they should follow and what they should not?
Article by Balakumar Somu. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org