With the Tamil Nadu assembly elections round the corner, yet another issue has hit the surface again, with political parties now playing a tug of war to take credit. Jallikattu, the bullfighting sport which is popular during Pongal festivities but has been banned by the apex court, is now subject to politicking by both the DMK and AIADMK. Political analysts however say that the real intention is vote-bank politics.
On Wednesday morning, TN Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to introduce an ordinance to conduct Jallikattu during upcoming Pongal festivities in January. “... the Government of India may consider promulgating an ordinance enabling the conduct of jallikattu during Pongal. On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, I urge you to have the ordinance promulgated expeditiously,'' said Jayalalithaa.
It wasn’t just the letter. AIADMK party cadres on Monday joined in a mass prayer in Palamedu in Madurai and ‘appreciated’ Chief Minister’s repeated requests to the Central government to lift the ban on the sport. AIADMK rural district secretary and Madurai Mayor VV Rajan Chellappa was also present at the venue. In August, Jayalalithaa had asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remove the ban on the sport.
AIADMK MPs from Madurai, Theni and Sivaganga also highlighted the issue in the parliament and asked Union Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javedkar to take some action towards lifting the ban.
This however came close to the heels of a similar call from DMK leader MK Stalin. On December 17, Stalin asked the Centre and state government to lift the ban on ‘Jallikattu’ and warned his party would lead protests in the state against the governments if they fail to do so. "If the Centre and state don't take steps for removing the ban and hold Jallikattu during the coming Pongal festival, I myself will lead a struggle against this after seeking approval from (DMK President) Kalaignar (Karunanidhi)," he said in a Facebook post.
He also said that he would carry out a-day long hunger strike on December 28 asking the state and Centre Government to lift ban on the bull-fight sport.
Political parties like MDMK, DMDK and PMK have also asked for the ban to be lifted against ‘Jallikattu’.
Political analysts however say that calls to lift the ban on Jallikattu are with an eye on gaining votes in the Tamil Nadu assembly elections in 2016.
“There is nothing but political agenda behind it. They think they can woo the vote-bank by doing this. It may appeal to a small section of the society,” said political watcher Gnani Sankaran.
Talking about the importance of culture in propagating Jallikattu, he said, “It could have been an important sport in the bygone time but we keep changing over the years so I don’t think it is prudent for any community or society to cling on the entire past. One needs to cling to a part of your past.”
Speaking to The News Minute, senior journalist and political commentator GC Shekhar said, “It is a rural sport so it is popular in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu, vote-bank politics is involved. Anyways, bulls don’t have votes, only those who tame them have votes. There is a political reason because if political parties do not take up the cause of bull fighting they might lose some votes.”
Talking about the political parties move, he said, “They are not bothered about animal welfare or ethical treatment of animals. They think it is a part of Tamil culture so it has to be allowed.”
The DMK government had enacted a legislation in 2009 to make sure that the sport continues after introducing due regulations. “Last time, Supreme Court had come out with stringent regulations but it was not followed by the officials. The district administration was quite rack in all these things,” said Gnani Sanakaran.
“Though there have been many rules imposed by Supreme Court in the past, they have not been implemented correctly. The district administration does not have a mechanism to impose the rules. So, it is a difficult condition for administration as the rural people and farmers who want the sport. On the other hand, animal welfare activists say that bulls are not treated properly,” said Shekhar.
TR Rajasekhar, an advocate who has been fighting for ‘Jallikattu’ sport at the Supreme Court from 2007 when the Animal liberation organization asked for the ban on the sport, said that it is good that many Tamil Nadu parties want the ban to be lifted from the sport but they need to go and talk in the parliament. “If Supreme Court does not lift the ban then the only way to go is to get an ordinance passed by the Central Government,” he said.