The highs & lows of jallikattu : The Tribune India

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The highs & lows of jallikattu

The highs & lows of jallikattu

Photo for representational purpose only. - PTI file photo



Satish Kumar Dogra

IN 1982, I was allotted the Tamil Nadu cadre of the Indian Police Service. For a person born and brought up in Punjab, the southern state was like a foreign land. Fortunately, during training at the National Police Academy, Hyderabad, my batchmates from Tamil Nadu encouraged me to learn Tamil. By the time I arrived there, I had learnt to interact with local residents through a combination of words and gestures.

It was in 1988 that I attended a jallikattu event for the first time. I was then the Superintendent of Police of Madurai district. One evening in January, a group of prominent persons from Alanganallur village came to invite me to watch the bull-taming sport.

I reached the venue on the appointed day. The event started with the worship of a deity in a small temple near the arena where bulls were pitted against humans.

Some people sat on the dais, while others lined the arena in rows. The bulls were allowed to enter one by one from one side of the premises. Young volunteers went all out to catch every bull by the horns. Some would try to climb the hefty animal. They would be thrown around or trampled upon by the angry beast. Dust and noise filled the air, even as the prospect of death or serious injury loomed large.

It made me uncomfortable to see young men tossed around by the bulls. Next morning, newspapers carried reports about the casualties during jallikattu events organised in various parts of the state. When I shared my feelings with my Tamil friends, they argued that it was a centuries-old tradition and a huge test of strength and valour.

The Supreme Court, following a petition submitted by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), banned the sport in 2014, but a major agitation forced the state government to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and legalise jallikattu. Last year, a Constitution Bench of the apex court ruled that the changes in the Tamil Nadu law were valid.

The government has constructed a huge stadium near Alanganallur for jallikattu. This step is laudable as it will help the sport gain popularity and be counted on a par with bullfighting in Spain, Japan and other countries.

Jallikattu is an integral part of the Pongal celebrations. Pongal is the Tamil equivalent of Lohri. Being celebrated this week, this festival features nature worship, jallikattu events and a ceremony where people exchange gifts.

According to reports, 825 bulls and around 430 bull-tamers took part in the jallikattu competition held in Madurai district on Monday. During the event, around 150 people, including bull-tamers, spectators and cops, were injured. Avaniyapuram resident Karthik was adjudged the best bull-tamer. He received a car, a cow and a calf!

#Tamil Nadu


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