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Jallikattu animal-friendly and part of Tamil Nadu's traditions

Ruling out the possibility of any ordinance to permit the bull-taming sport of Jallikattu before Supreme Court announces its verdict on the issue, environment minister Anil Dave said on Tuesday that Centre’s hands are tied. The minister though, hinted that the Centre supported the sport as it viewed it as “animal friendly” and a part of “Tamil Nadu’s traditions and culture.” Dave spoke on the issue in the wake of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam’s recent letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking an ordinance permitting the sport.

“The Supreme Court decision is pending. It will be difficult to say what can be done right now. But, once the court’s decision is announced, we will examine the matter and take a stand,” Dave told reporters on Tuesday.

While speaking on the issue, Dave pointed out that the controversy surrounding Jallikattu began when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government issued a notification prohibiting use of bulls as performing animals. “The previous government brought out the notification in 2011 and that is where the problem arose. In 2016, we made it clear before the Supreme Court that we want to remove bull from the ambit of performing animals. In a country like India, emotion and culture plays a huge part and these things are not profession drive. Therefore, we had said to Supreme Court in 2016 that we want to remove bulls from the list of performing animals,” added Dave, illustrating the National Democratic Alliance’s stand on the issue.

In 2014, Supreme Court banned Jallikattu along with other sports involving animals such as bull-races in Maharashtra and Karnataka, cockfights in Andhra Pradesh, Bulbul fights in Assam and dog-fights in Punjab. The SC’s ban has made the issue a political hot potato with all political parties from Tamil Nadu voicing their support, seeking to lift the ban.

Following SC’s ban, the environment ministry under Prakash Javadekar had issued a notification permitting bull-taming and bull-races. But, there was an immediate appeal filed against the notification. Interestingly, the Animal Welfare Board of India, an environment ministry body, was party to the appeal. The SC had reiterated that the ban on the sport will continue. Last month, detailed hearings on the matter ended and the SC bench has reserved its order.

Commenting on the issue, Gauri Maulekhi, trustee, People for Animals, one of the petitioners in the case, said, “There is no provision in law that will allow Centre or State to subvert orders of Supreme Court. The issue has garnered a lot of controversy because politicians are using it as a tool to further their cause.”


What is Jallikatu?

A traditional and popular sport in rural Tamil Nadu, Jallikattu is staged as part of Pongal, a harvest festival. Bulls are released from enclosures and youths attempt to tame it by its horns, bare handed.