Jallikattu Gets Closer To Becoming A State Law. But It Took Some Work Getting Here.

by Aravindan Neelakandan - Jan 21, 2017 03:02 PM +05:30 IST
Jallikattu Gets Closer To Becoming A State Law. But It Took Some Work Getting Here.Jallikattu (Amshudhagar/Wikimedia Commons)
Snapshot
  • Jallikattu ordinance will soon become a state law when passed in Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

    The ancient sport will thus soon be guarded by the law of the land.

In the true spirit of democracy, the Union government has set the stage for the Tamil Nadu government’s ordinance allowing Jallikattu to be held in the state.

If there has been one all-India body that has consistently supported jallikattu, it is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. At the 'Hindu Spiritual and Services Fair' held in Chennai, the cultural and ecological importance of the bull-taming sport was highlighted with separate stalls both in 2014 and 2015. It was perhaps the first organisational effort to create a public opinion in favour of Jallikattu.

Late Swami Dayananda Saraswati was one of several spiritual seers in favour of Jallikattu. His ashram at Annaikatty was a hub for the sport’s organisers from many parts of Tamil Nadu to come and speak about their grievances. The ailing swami, despite his health condition, would spend hours with them offering moral and spiritual support.

So when the North-India-based old media establishment and many elite groups were portraying Jallikattu incorrectly, and when Congress leaders suffering from Nehruvian cultural illiteracy were branding it as 'cruelty to animals', Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who was then the environment minister, could empathise with the cause of Jallikattu. He introduced the notification in 2016 which, if it had not been stayed by the Supreme Court, would have allowed Jallikattu to be held as a traditional sport while accommodating concerns about the treatment of bulls as demanded by the original values of the sport.

Here, one should note that neither People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) nor elitist animal lovers could get the notification squashed. They could only bring about a stay, and the matter is still under legal scrutiny.

The fault here lies squarely with the apex court, which should have gotten involved in the matter quickly given how it relates emotionally to the people of Tamil Nadu. But this is not the first time that it has let people down. Even after the massacre of kar sevaks in 1990, the disputed structure at Ayodhya stood as it was till 6 December 1992, despite a Bharatiya Janata Party government coming to power after the massacre.

When the Land Acquisition Act of Kalyan Singh government was similarly challenged, the apex court assured in its order of 15 November 1991 that the high court would take the case for “final disposal some time in December of this year”. Yet, even in December next year, the court sat over the case, and the kar sevaks who had already seen the massacre of their comrades by the Sarayu river, and who had patiently waited for two years, took the matter into their hands despite protests by the organisers.

In jallikattu as well, a similar indifference bordering on arrogance can be seen. Here, too, the Tamils went against the ban and conducted the festival.

When the 2016 notification in favour of jallikattu was stayed by vested interests, it was Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for the commerce and industry ministry, who was the first to point out that the state government had power under the Constitution to promulgate ordinances on fairs held in the state. Since jallikattu can be categorised as a ‘fair’, the state can issue an ordinance to allow it.

Today, after a year and plenty of drama, which the secessionist forces in Tamil Nadu are trying to capitalise on, the state government’s ordinance has been cleared by the law and environment ministries. Soon, it will become a state law when passed in Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly.

Meanwhile, when the Supreme Court delivers its verdict on Javadekar's 2016 notification, it will further ensure that the traditional game is legally guarded by the law of the land.

Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.

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