21st JANUARY 2017
Answer questions in NOT MORE than 200 words each. Content of the answer is more important than its length.
Links are provided for reference. You can also use the Internet fruitfully to further enhance and strengthen your answers.
GS I: CULTURE
1. Discuss the traditional and cultural aspects of Jallikattu and Supreme Court’s views on the matter. How can culture and humanism be balanced in the matter?
- As the harvest festival of Pongal approaches in Tamil Nadu, the clamour for legitimising the brutal sport, jallikattu, has grown louder yet again.
- The pressure this time includes the added weight of the political context, with ‘Tamil tradition and culture’ being invoked to stir up a high fever.
What is the issue?
- Supreme court in 2014 banned the sport jallikattu as it violates provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA) and militates the constitutional duty of treating animals with compassion, Article 51A (g).
- It also reiterated the expansive reading it had given in the past, to Article 21 (Right to Life), which prohibits any disturbance to the environment, including animals, considered essential for human life.
What is Jallikattu?
- Jallikattu is derived from the words ‘calli’ (coins) and ‘kattu’ (tie), which means a bundle of coins is tied to the bull’s horns.
- In older times, the tamer sought to remove this bundle from the animal’s head to win gold or silver.
- He would be called ‘brave’ and ‘valourous’ and would also sometimes be rewarded with a bride.
- The southern parts of Tamil Nadu witness bull-taming the most, with Alanganallur near Madurai hosting the largest and most famous of these events.
Cultural significance of jallikattu:
- The Tamil word for ox and cattle, ‘maadu’, also means wealth. As the great book of wisdom, the Tirukkural, emphatically asserts, education is the real ‘maadu’.
- As the unprecedented mass uprising in Tamil Nadu unfolds, jallikattu, the sport of taming the bull, has now become a symbol of Tamil pride and identity.
- How did a sport with origins in a pastoral world capture the imagination of a vast and differentiated linguistic community and become its symbol?
- In the extraordinary body of poetry, termed as Sangam literature, is a text called Kalithokai. In five long poems, totalling over 300 breath-taking lines, it provides the first elaborate description of this ancient sport.
- Though there is evidence in ancient rock art of forms of this sport, it is only in modern Tamil literary prose writing that we find extended descriptions of jallikattu.
- This history of the literary representation of jallikattu is testimony to its enduring allure.
A start of cruelty towards animals:
- But what started as a simple act of bravado has become an act of cruelty towards animals.
- The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI)’s report submitted before the court in this case lists unimaginable forms of torture inflicted on the beast meant to help in farming — tails twisted and fractured, chemicals poured into the eyes, ears mutilated, sharp-edged weapons used to poke the animal, and intoxicants forced into its mouth.
- All these and more take place right under the watch of officials.
- The enclosures in the arena deny the bull food, water, or even space to stand.
Wider interpretation by Supreme Court:
- Taking into consideration all these aspects, the Supreme Court ruled that not only did jallikattu inflict “unnecessary pain and suffering” on the animal and thereby violate the PCA Act, but the whole sport in the form in which it exists today has nothing to do with the traditional bull-taming of yore.
- The court exhaustively cites international rights jurisprudence to stress the need to correct anthropocentric views and the fact that animals too have the right to live dignified lives.
- The court then banned the use of bulls as performing animals, reiterating that any custom, even if in existence since the pre-constitutional days, should be in consonance with the values of the Constitution.
- The tradition of bullfighting in Spain is cited to legitimise the conduct of Jallikattu and present it as a viable tourist attraction.
- It is significant that the Spanish state of Catalonia banned the sport in 2012 after a prolonged ‘culture versus rights’ debate.
- In 2002, Germany took animal rights to a new level by giving animals constitutional protection.
- Those who want the sport to be legalised have called for an amendment to the PCA Act and measures to revoke the 2011 notification of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) which barred the use of bulls as performing animals.
- Trying to allow an event that legitimises cruelty to animals would be a direct insult to the carefully reasoned writ of the Supreme Court, a complete negation of the PCA Act and its objectives, and would take the country back by a few steps in the crucial area of Right to Life.
- Irrespective of the legislative, judicial or political outcome, there is no doubt that the protestors have won the day. But this triumphal moment also calls for introspection.
- Jallikattu enthusiasts should ensure that the sport is regulated and animals are protected from harm.
- In a welcome sign, environmental groups, keen on preserving native breeds of bulls, are already in the fray.
- More importantly, the democratic character manifest in the upsurge should be reflected in jallikattu itself by making it more inclusive with the participation of the high and the low, the dominant and the oppressed.