A brief history before the protests
The first ban happened in 2006, but the wheels of turning Jallikattu into a major point of conflict started with the Congress-led UPA II government. The then environment minister Jairam Ramesh issued a notification in 2011 banning the use of bulls as “performing animals” – technically aimed at Jallikattu.
The matter then escalated and reached the Supreme Court, which effectively banned the bull-taming sport on a petition by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
When the BJP-led NDA government revoked the ban through a notification in 2016 but with a rider that no animal is injured, PETA went to the apex court again.
Acting on PETA’s petition, the Supreme Court intervened and again banned Jallikattu. It agreed to relook into the ban but said that the decision cannot be given before Pongal festival.
Since Jallikattu happens immediately after the Pongal celebrations, the delay in the decision did not go down well with supporters of the traditional sport.
In no time, thousands of supporters came out on the streets of Chennai and elsewhere peacefully demanding Jallikattu.
Since January 17, the protestors have been raising slogans in favour of Jallikattu. Some are even calling for a ban on PETA for interfering mindlessly with a tradition.
Tamil Nadu CM O Panneerselvam met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi today to discuss the matter. In his memorandum he wrote why the tradition is integral to the people of Tamil Nadu and threw light on its ancient roots dating back to more than 2000 years.
The memorandum also reads that the bulls are not harmed but “embraced”.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) January 19, 2017
The big names who are backing Jallikattu
The protestors are receiving support from some of the biggest names in Tamil Nadu. Besides political parties, who have united in support of the sport, the influential Tamil film industry, too, has been joining their voice with the protestors.
Legendary actor Kamal Haasan was one of the first to unabashedly support the sport.
On the sidelines of the India Today conclave, the famed actor said that if Jallikattu is to be banned because of alleged animal cruelty, a ban should also be imposed on biryani.
When India Today’s managing editor Rahul Kanwal pointed out that animal rights activists are upset that bulls get injured in the sport.
“Oh, yes, they must be. Then ban biryani,” pat came Haasan’s reply.
Haasan revealed that he himself had participated in Jallikattu, and is one of the very few actors to do so. Before signing off, Haasan reminded that “more people die of motor vehicle accidents”.
Others spoke on almost every platform, including Twitter.
Actor Dhanush, who is also the son-in-law of Rajinikanth:
— Dhanush (@dhanushkraja) January 17, 2017
— Vijay (@actorvijay) January 17, 2017
v silent in an ahimsa way non political way of agitation to lift ban on Jallikattu by 1000s n 1000s of students in marina beach Chennai pic.twitter.com/4UeKQxQuXp
— Prabhudheva (@PDdancing) January 19, 2017
Playback singer Chinmayi Sripaada:
Repeating what I have said the past week – I support Jallikattu. And I am a proud Tamilian.
Proud of the youngsters. Thank you.
— Chinmayi Sripaada (@Chinmayi) January 18, 2017
Composer G.V. Prakash Kumar:
To the national media .Jallikattu is not animal cruelty .If u don’t have proper research pls don’t talk . This is not ur corrida de toros pic.twitter.com/YZQJ9Z4n2m
— G.V.Prakash Kumar (@gvprakash) January 18, 2017
Lyricist Madhan Karky:
Unlike Diwali which pollutes the environment and causes all sorts of trouble to animals, #Jallikattu is a tradition to bond with them.
— Madhan Karky (@madhankarky) January 19, 2017
— STR (@iam_str) January 19, 2017
Director Mohan Raja:
— Mohan Raja (@jayam_mohanraja) January 19, 2017
Cricketer R. Ashwin:
— Ashwin Ravichandran (@ashwinravi99) January 18, 2017
And the legendary Vishwanathan Anand:
#jallikattu is a cultural symbol . Respect it. Im all for animal rights but here that is not the point.tradition & livelihood are .
— Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) January 19, 2017
Tamilians from across the world are supporting Jallikattu:
— Prashanth Rangaswamy (@itisprashanth) January 19, 2017
— Rahul Easwar (@RahulEaswar) January 18, 2017
Even publications based out of Tamil Nadu came out in support:
— Behindwoods (@behindwoods) January 19, 2017
Speaking on national television, Kris Srikkanth slammed PETA’s ignorance on the matter. He said that Jallikattu is not “cruelty to animals”. He pointed out that men are the ones who are injured and die during Jallikattu.
— News18 (@CNNnews18) January 18, 2017
And these are just the voices from Tamil Nadu alone. Hundreds of thousands across India are lending their support to the peaceful protests.
— Sadhguru (@SadhguruJV) January 19, 2017
I support Jallikattu & request that the movement remains peaceful.Let’s have patience while a fresh appeal is made in SC with correct facts.
— Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (@SriSri) January 19, 2017
So what is making so many people come together in support of the sport?
One reason could be PETA’s own ignorance of the tradition. In fact, PETA is the one that has come in for immense criticism for singling out a tradition to further its agenda.
Ambika Shukla of PETA admits that she has never watched a Jallikattu performed. These are the liberal warriors hitting at cultural roots
— Sanjay Dixit (@Sanjay_Dixit) January 18, 2017
PETA claims to be working to protect animals. But people are not convinced because of the selective outrage of animal rights activists. The fact that so many prominent names in Tamil Nadu, including the likes of Vishwanathan Anand, are supporting Jallikattu and saying that it is not cruelty to animals as is being alleged must mean something.
On the other hand, Poorva Joshipura wrote an article to defend PETA. But instead of making a case for the ban on Jallikattu, she painted all its supporters as “misogynists”, “bullies”, and “liars”. Instead of voicing concern for animal rights, she accuses all men of being cruel to animals. Clearly, a misandrist article that proves that PETA has no ground to claim that Jallikattu is actually animal cruelty.
This is why there are many who are treading the line Haasan drew – “ban biryani, too”. In fact, people on social media are asking why PETA is not vociferously campaigning against festivals like Bakr-i-Eid, in which lakhs of goats are slaughtered.
PETA is totally silent on how Jallikattu actually helps in the survival of the species.
While Indian laws prevent the killing of any animal except in slaughter houses, Bakr-i-Eid is the only religious festival which is outside this law.
Yet there are voices that continue to speak against specific Indian (read Hindu) traditions alone, including an article published today in the DNA.
— Amit Thadhani (@amitsurg) January 19, 2017
And there are others who point at the foreign hand working against India’s tradition:
— Ashok Selvan (@AshokSelvan) January 19, 2017
What a foreign body like Peta, with help from Judiciary, has done is alarming. Issue is larger than #Jalikattu and should worry all Indians.
— কাঞ্চন গুপ্ত (@KanchanGupta) January 19, 2017
Animal cruelty is something that should be looked into, but becoming selective in the outrage against animal cruelty – calling for a ban on Jallikattu but opposing beef ban – is hypocritical. Perhaps this is why the people are angry on PETA and the judiciary for its decision based on PETA’s appeal.
— hemant morparia (@hemantmorparia) January 14, 2016
#Jallikattu anger would not spill over if:
1. Cruelty was stopped, not tradition
2. Courts, NGOs kept same vigil for other religions’ fests
— Abhijit Majumder (@abhijitmajumder) January 18, 2017
Someone who killed black bucks cruelly is a free man today, yet somehow #jallikattu suddenly seems to be the most cruel act on planet.
— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) January 18, 2017
@sp6398 : Jallikattu will happen even if delayed. I will fight for it. One ship will wait in Chennai port for Porukkis shipped to Jaffna
— Subramanian Swamy (@Swamy39) January 17, 2017
The selective banning of traditions or rituals involving animal cruelty will only create conflicts in India’s society and grant inimical forces the free hand to create disturbances.
Correction: An earlier version of this article credited Ambika Shukla as the writer of the Huffington Post article against Jallikattu. It is actually Poorva Joshipura, CEO of PETA. The error is regretted.