Jallikattu – Lessons from the Stir

Also available in: हिन्दी मराठी

Jallikattu – It is vital to shepherd the bullish energy!

It’s unfortunate that a spontaneous and genuine public movement for Jallikattu like the “Marina Springs” ended with individuals and organizations with ulterior motives infiltrating the movement and hijacking it. What happened in Chennai must awaken us and serve as a lesson in constructive management of public sentiments.

Grand Finale matters

Most of the protestors were left not knowing how to handle the joy of successfully compelling the authorities to find ways of getting around the court ban on Jallikattu. Even protests and uprisings need a proper valedictory. In the absence of it, the high energy and bullish tempo of the public can be easily misled to wrong directions.

Had there been a grand celebration to mark the success of a peaceful movement, the protestors would have moved on before unscrupulous people could move in to exploit the restlessness of the youth. A grand event with cultural performances, mass celebrations, community feasts and satsangs could have easily provided a positive avenue for soft-closing the restive energy!

Tradition is in

The Jallikattu campaign was a landmark in itself. It was a well-meaning protest started mostly by students to stand up peacefully for self-pride and preserving the ancient sport of Jallikattu. It was heartening to see their numbers rise to over a lakh in just a few days without any organized mobilization. Such sense of pride in their culture is a very positive indicator that our youth still value the country’s traditions. I am told that a song linking Jallikattu with Tamil pride went viral on YouTube clocking millions of views. When the youth take pride in their ancient traditions and make it a part of their identity, it not only adds depth to their life, but also instills the much needed valour and vigour to perform better.

Beware of anti social elements

When thousands of people come together charged with strong emotions, it becomes an irresistible and euphoric force subtly feeding one with a sense of heroism. In this almost addictive surge of energy and euphoric state, there is all the possibility of sense taking a backseat making it easy for vested interests to exploit the mass sentiments. I could see this coming and was repeatedly urging the public to stay alert.

The Chennai episode has shown that it needs wisdom, patience and perseverance to guard movements for social justice from destructive elements.

Taming the Bull

Fortunately all the stakeholders of the movement distanced from and foiled the nefarious designs of anti social elements. Though the police action could have been avoided it became necessary.

With the passing of a new law by Tamil Nadu government permitting Jallikattu, we must now focus on ensuring that the traditional bull-taming game is conducted safely and in its true spirits. The government has already issued a set of stringent guidelines, which includes CCTV surveillance and medical examination of bulls before the start. Precautions must be taken to prevent injuries.

The key lies in striking a balance between tradition, human safety and animal care. Jallikattu is a very ancient and cherished part of the Pongal celebrations in many parts of Tamil Nadu. Ours is an agrarian culture. Bulls which help in cultivating the land are considered the lifeline of farmers. They are treated as a part of the family and worshipped. Jallikattu as a source of pride and honor provides farmers the incentive to retain and rear the native bulls whose numbers have diminished significantly over the past few decades.

Test of Talents

Although there have been a few incidences where people violated the laws and showed cruelty to animals, games like Jallikattu are neither meant to be cruel to animals nor cause injuries to people. Instead, they are a test of skills demanding a great degree of talent, focus, physical capability and patience. In a similar sport of Karnataka’s Dakshina Kannada, Kambala, players cover 145 metres in just 13.5 seconds, barefoot and holding onto a rope tied to the yoke of a buffalo! It means they ran 100 metres in 9.31 seconds, much faster than the Olympics record of 9.58 seconds. Banning such sports will amount to curbing the talents of rural youth.

Beyond Jallikattu

Unfortunately, these dimensions of tradition weren’t presented appropriately to the courts, resulting in a ban on such games on the charges of cruelty to animals. If animal activists genuinely want to show love for animals, they must focus on banning slaughter houses and abattoirs.

Having said this, regulations for safety and protection during Jallikattu must be strictly enforced and the ​violators who must be punished​.​

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