Jallikattu fallout and future course of action – B. R. Haran

B.R. Haran“A debate has raged between supporters and opponents of the ban on Jallikattu, and as there are valid points on both sides, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the issue and to plan the future course of action.” – B.R. Haran

After waging a legal war for almost 10 years, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and animal welfare activists have won their case against “animal sports” such as Jallikattu, Rekla (bullock-cart race) etc., involving bulls. A Supreme Court bench comprising Justice K S Radhakrishnan and Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, in a landmark judgment on 7 May 2014, banned Jallikattu, Rekla and other such ‘sports’. The SC also struck down the “Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act 2009” [1]. Subsequently on June 22, the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court dismissed 18 petitions, pending from 2009, which sought permission to conduct Jallikattu in the State in the light of the Supreme Court’s ban.

Since then, a debate has raged between supporters and opponents of the ban, and as there are valid points on both sides, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the issue and to plan the future course of action. The Bull Fight is a traditional sport as evidenced by Seals excavated at Mohenjo-daro and by scriptures such as Bhagvatam; over time the sport got restricted to certain parts of the country and moved from villages to towns and cities. It has become a “free for all” sport, no longer restricted to the traditional agriculturist community

Madras High CourtThe legal process

For over three decades, the South Indian Humanitarian League and Blue Cross of India petitioned the Petitions’ Committee of the TN state legislature to ban Jallikattu and other sports using bulls. In 2004, hearing a petition seeking permission for conducting Rekla Race, Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla permitted the “sport” with a rider that the organisers should cause no injury to the bulls. The petitioner had to approach the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court, as the Ramanathapuram Police had refused permission earlier.

In 2006, another petitioner approached the Madurai Bench for the same reason; another petition in the same court was filed by the father of a man who was killed during Jallikattu the previous year. Taking note of the purview of the PCA Act in its entirety, Justice R Banumathi issued an order banning all types of “sports” namely Jallikattu, Rekla race, and other such “sports” causing cruelty to animals.

When the petitioner seeking permission appealed against the single judge’s order, a division bench comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and PPS Janarthana Raja heard the appeal on 9 March 2007 and set aside the single judge’s order. The bench allowed Jallikattu with conditions which applied to ‘Performing Animals’ under the PCA Act. These were –

  • Owners of bulls must register their animals with the Animal Welfare Board of India one month in advance;
  • Bulls must be certified by a vet as being healthy and fit to be allowed to participate in the events lasting several months across several districts of Tamil Nadu;
  • At every event bull tamers will be tested by doctors for alcohol consumption;
  • Bulls should not be given alcohol prior to the event;
  • Bulls must not be administered steroids and veterinary doctors stationed at the venue must ensure that bulls have not been abused by owners rubbing chilly powder, tobacco and mud in their eyes, tails and genitals;
  • All events must receive written permission from the local magistrate.

The State Government was made a respondent and the division bench stipulated monitoring of Jallikattu by the local magistrate, district collector, veterinary officers, AWBI volunteers and police; the High Court placed bulls on the list of ‘Performing Animals’ on its own. As the organisers and State Government were desperate to conduct the “sport” they readily agreed to the classification of bulls as performing animals and also to comply with the conditions posed by the High Court. It bears mention that the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act (2009), which impacts upon the PCA Act (1960) which is a Central act, has not received Presidential assent yet.

The AWBI, a statutory body, disagreed with the classification of bull as ‘performing animal’ and took the case to the Supreme Court seeking an immediate stay on the order of the division bench and demanding a complete ban on Jallikattu. Thereafter, on July 27, 2007 the Supreme Court in an interim order stayed the order of the division bench of the Madras High Court.

However, on January 11, 2008 the Supreme Court pronounced its final order by banning Jallikattu but permitting Rekla race. The bench comprising Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik permitted Rekla because the AWBI had, by lapse, sought banning of only Jallikattu. When the State Government filed a Revision Petition on 13 January 2008, the same bench heard it and delivered an interim order allowing Jallikattu to be held as part of Pongal celebrations, with some ‘conditions’. The AWBI promptly filed another Special Leave Petition seeking restoration of the earlier order dated 11 January 2008.

Even as the case was dragging in the apex court, the State Government tabled the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Bill in the Assembly; it was unanimously passed as Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009. But the government failed to obtain Presidential assent. Thereafter, the same bench of the Supreme Court gave interim orders in 2010 and 2011 allowing Jallikattu with conditions and directing the authorities to ‘monitor’ the ‘sport’.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, in July 2011, included Bulls on the list of animals which may not be deemed to be Performing Animals and may therefore not be allowed to be trained, exhibited or used in sport. The ministry added that Bulls meant cows, progeny of cows, bulls, buffalo and oxen including castrated and not castrated ones.

Armed with the notification of MOE & F, AWBI and animal welfare activist Radha Rajan filed separate petitions in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High court seeking a ban on Jallikattu. On 12 January 2012 the Bench comprising Justices Chitra Venkataraman and R Karuppaiah heard the matter, but the government advocates managed to secure another day for the government to be heard again. As the State’s ruling party was also partner at the Center, the Union Government’s Advocate General somehow failed to defend the notification of the MOE & F. The State Government also succeeded in allowing the ‘sport’ to be conducted, as usual with ‘conditions’ (that were never followed) and ‘monitoring’ (that was never done with the seriousness it required).

Continuing its relentless efforts, the AWBI monitored and observed the conduct of Jallikattu in 2012 and 2013 and prepared solid documentation with photographs and videographs and submitted its report to the Supreme Court (supporters argue that such cruelties stopped after 2008). The AWBI meticulously detailed the entire process of Jallikattu, the cruelties to which the bulls are subjected and how Jallikattu was violative of various sections of the PCA Act. A petition was filed by PETA against the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009.

The organisers of Jallikattu, confident of political support from the State Government and thinking that the TNJR Act would make it easy for them in the Supreme Court, failed to make a convincing case for conducting Jallikattu; they did not present any documentation or proof that there was no cruelty to the animals and proof that they were conducting Jallikattu safely.

The Supreme Court analysed the issue threadbare taking the PCA Act into consideration in its entirety. It found the TNJR Act repugnant to the PCA Act and noted that the TNJR Act had not received Presidential Assent under Article 254 of the Constitution of India. Accordingly, it banned Jallikattu, Rekla race and other such “sports” and struck down the TNJR Act 2009 as null and void.

JallikattuJallikattu – not sport but farce!

Following the judgment, the organisers and supporters of Jallikattu are disappointed and agitated. But the ban on the sport is of their making! As long as Jallikattu was conducted as a village sport by the agricultural community, with the involvement of youth from the particular village and under the supervision of village elders and leaders of the said village, it did not attract attention, good or bad. It had its own typical cultural flair and religious flavour; it was traditional in the true sense of the word.

But once the sport moved to towns and cities and suffered commercialization (prize money, betting, etc.), due to greed for money and fame by organisers and community leaders, it lost its uniqueness. Even the “brave” players taking part in taming the bulls are mostly from towns and cities, not rural areas. They are akin to the mad bike racers we see on city roads.

The cruelty inflicted upon the hapless animals is beyond expression. Cutting the ear, pulling, twisting and biting the tail, soiling the tail and hind legs with faeces, making them stand for hours, causing injuries by chasing them and hitting and poking them with sticks and knives, applying irritants into their eyes and noses, using tight and thick nose-ropes, keeping them in cramped conditions without sufficient food and water, forcing them to drink liquor and even spectators beating them are some of the cruelties detailed with photographic and videographic evidence in the AWBI report, four years after the proclamation of TNJR Act by Tamil Nadu government. [2]

The day Jallikattu moved from villages to towns and cities, far away from the temples, it lost its sanctity and traditional fervour and gained in commercial flavour in the process. The greed for money and fame increased and commitment to tradition decreased. The rural traditional sport became an urban and sub-urban commercial entertainment, showing scant regard for the well-being of animals and humans. We have come across deaths of scores of players and spectators over the years. Even during the so-called training period, the bulls are subjected to cruelties such as forcing it to thrash its head and horns repeatedly against the ground, tying it to two poles tightly immobilizing it, etc. [3]

The bulls were viewed and treated as objects or instruments of entertainment instead of living beings. This forced the AWBI and animal welfare activists to act against this farce and the rest is history.

Jallikattu inscription excavated from Peththa Nayakkan Palaiyam, Attur Taluk, Tamil NaduArguments for Jallikattu, a travesty!

In the name of tradition, it is not clear if the organisers included Indus Valley Seals, verses from Bhagvatam and other archaeological and literary evidences in their defense before the Supreme Court. The argument that twisting tails, cutting ears and using nose-ropes are not cruelties will not cut ice with the Court of law, which views the case under the PCA Act. The organisers had to defend their case under the purview of the PCA Act. They were not able to present a sound defence, because they violated conditions even in 2012 and 2013, four years after these were imposed by the Supreme Court.

It is argued by organisers and supporters of Jallikattu that the bulls are sent for slaughter due to the ban of the sport. They claim that the bull is reared with love and affection as a member of the family; taken care of by feeding highly nutritious food with special attention for its well-being; and that as much as Rs. 500/- per day is spent on the bull, all year round. When they can send their own family member to the slaughter-house just because Jallikattu is banned, is not the claim of taking care of the bull with love and affection farcical? Doesn’t this prove that they are for money only? Are they not spending so much because the Jallikattu bull’s market rate is over Rs one lakh?

They argue that Jallikattu helps them in protection, preservation and breeding of native cattle. If they really want to protect and preserve native breeds, why should they send the bulls for slaughter just because the sport is banned? Is Jallikattu the only option to breed native cattle? Can’t they use them for breeding, farming and producing biogas, organic manure and other dung-based products?

The day the agriculturist replaced bulls with tractors, he lost his credibility; exposed his avarice. The day he started compromising on the genuine tradition of Jallikattu and made it a commercial sport, inflicting pain on hapless animals, he lost his ground for arguments. It is a farce that the bulls are sold for slaughter only after the ban on Jallikattu. Selling male progeny has been happening for years! As he has started selling them for slaughter, he can no more claim that he is passionate about breeding them.

Animal Welfare Board of IndiaBlaming animal welfare activists

Jallikattu organisers and supporters alleged that animal welfare activists were paid by foreign NGOs backed by the Church. They must understand that there is nothing Christian about the AWBI or animal welfare activists, majority of whom are Hindu. Both have an impressive track record in the cause of animal welfare. When Churches are conducting Jallikattu, where is the question of these activists being paid by the Church? Even genuine Hindu activists, who have been serving the cause of animal welfare for decades, have been blamed for being associated with PETA and paid by Christian NGOs!

Jallikattu supporters question why animal welfare activists are not fighting against slaughter of cattle, cattle trafficking, circus, etc. This is an ill-informed argument. Animal welfare activists are fighting against all forms of cruelties perpetrated on animals.

First, with regards to Circus, the Ministry Environment and Forests issued a second notification dated 14-10-1998 (Annexure-1)4 under Section 22 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 putting restriction on exhibition or training of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and lions with effect from the date of publication of the notification. Since then, the number of Circus companies has been on the decline.

Second, regarding slaughter houses, the Supreme Court delivered an excellent order [4] on 23 August 2012 directing both the Central and State Governments to ensure that slaughter houses adhere to the guidelines prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board, involving the Departments of Health, Animal Husbandry and Labour, State Police, Food Safety Commissioner, State Pollution Control Board, State Animal Welfare Board and two prominent persons nominated by the State Government.

Third, regarding Cattle Trafficking, animal welfare activists have worked diligently with limited resources. Ever since a team of committed activists led by Radha Rajan and S V Badri released a documentary “Their Last Journey – Cattle Trafficking to Kerala” [5], huge awareness has been created on the issue and many activists have formed their own teams across Tamil Nadu to serve the noble cause. In other States too, activists are working to stop cattle trafficking.

All animals are the same for animal welfare activists; they do not discriminate between Desi Cow and Jersey Cow, dog and cat, hen and peacock, but work for the protection and welfare of all. Working for animal welfare is not easy; it requires manpower, money power, material power, and above all, support from the State administration and Police. Waging a legal war must also be within the realms of Law and Constitution. Within their capacities and limitations, they are doing a great job.

Those who fought against Jallikattu are also fighting against circuses, against cattle trafficking, against cow slaughter, against the government’s religious endowment departments for the welfare of temple cows; they will also fight for the protection and breeding of native cattle!

St. Anthony of PaduaThe Christian play

Regarding churches conducting Jallikattu, it is claimed that churches have been conducting this sport in certain parts of Tamil Nadu on the eve of St. Antony’s Festival for centuries! [6] It is a great blunder that Hindus allowed the church to hijack this sport. During the current year when the Church organized Jallikattu in Dindigal, a 12-year-old boy was killed and 23 others injured! [7] The agricultural community should have protested against the churches and safeguarded the sanctity of this Hindu sport. Having allowed the church to conduct Jallikattu, can the argument that banning Jallikattu hurts Hindu religious sentiments stand scrutiny?

Even in the present circumstances, the Hindu agriculturists did not fight for the Hinduness of Jallikattu as they feared the Dravidian Government would not support them. The DMK regime supported Jallikattu and went to the extent of making a separate law for it, not in the interest of Hindu religion or Tamil culture, but because it brings money to its coffers and the Church is also involved. This was the regime that changed the traditional Tamil New Year, showing scant regard to Hindu religion and Tamil culture. The pathetic condition of cows and the gaushalas maintained by the HR & CE Department shows the scant regard the government has for religious tradition and sentiments of Hindus!

In a recently published Tamil article by Chennai-based Vedic Science Research Center, an author named Aegan [8] has explained in detail about the attempts being made by Christian priests to purchase native breeds of cattle from farmers in Erode, in order to use them to produce cross-breeds and curtail the growth of native breeds. The article cites evidence that these priests have been indulging in this nefarious activity with the active connivance of the officers of a nationalized bank. It is a very serious issue and the agricultural community must immediately bring it to the notice of the Government and take it up with the concerned banks’ authorities. They must ensure this practice does not spread to other parts of Tamil Nadu, like they allowed the church to hijack Jallikattu.

What has St. Antony got to do with Jallikattu? It is clearly an “Inculturation” technique. Hence, it is imperative that the Hindu agricultural community think of a strategy to take the rural sport back to the villages with religious and cultural flavour, as a Review Petition against the ban is most likely to be rejected.

Shiva Pashupati of MohanjodaroHindu perspective

It is very unfortunate that this issue has created a rift among Hindus. Supporters of the ban feel that the present day Jallikattu is a mockery of the village sport and more commercial and entertainment than tradition and culture. This is akin to the debate on vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism among Hindus. It is a fact that the Maharishis of Vedic times took some amount of ‘pashu’ as prasad after performing yagnas. But over the centuries, Vedic Brahmins have put an end to animal sacrifice in yagnas, barring very rare occasions like vajpeya yagnas. But none of the Hindu scriptures have strictly enforced vegetarianism for Hindus.

The same is the case with animal sacrifices during temple festivals, particularly the village temples, where the gramadevata is served naivedhya by sacrificing animals and birds. Here also we have two sections of Hindus, one for and one against the tradition of animal sacrifice. The point of contention is that the practice of eating non-vegetarian food has become almost a daily affair, unlike the days when it was only during festival occasions and family / community celebrations. Over the years, beef eating has also increased manifold among Hindus and has probably led people to view animals as mere products and not living beings.

Feeding a cow at the front gate.Objectives and Plans

This Hindu nation has a time-tested tradition of worshipping Nature. Our livelihood was in consonance with nature. Natural resources are God’s gift to mankind. But as we started deviating from the tradition of worshipping nature and showing scant regard for nature, we started facing problems. As we modernised our agricultural practices, we failed to strike a balance, resulting in the destruction of our cattle wealth. Similarly, village oriented sports like Jallikattu have lost the traditional sanctity as they became commercialised for money and entertainment. The traditional practice of daily worshipping cattle has become a formal annual event, resulting in cattle being viewed as commodities. It is high time the depletion of cattle wealth stopped and steps taken to increase it.

The following objectives are in order:

  1. To work towards bringing a ban on Cow Slaughter;
  2. To stop Cattle Trafficking;
  3. To improve breeding of native varieties of cattle;
  4. To sustain traditional agricultural practices, organic farming, etc;
  5. To take back the traditional sports to villages in a new form with truly religious flavor.

The prohibition of cow slaughter is a Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Article 48 of the Constitution: “The State shall endeavour to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall, in particular, take steps for preserving and improving the breeds, and prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”.

Yet successive governments have failed the nation on the issue of banning cattle slaughter. Successive governments have also failed to check and control the mushrooming of hundreds of thousands of illegal slaughter houses, leading to a progression of meat industry resulting in India becoming the world’s highest exporter of beef, a shameful distinction!

For a Dharmic nation that worships Cow and its progeny, leading the world in exporting their meat is not only shameful but sinful. The present ruling party at the Centre stated in its election manifesto that it would reverse the so-called Pink Revolution by coming down heavily on slaughter and trafficking of cattle.

Right thinking citizens should support Hindu organizations, which must work together for this noble cause by coordinating with the Union Government to ban cow slaughter and export of beef. In accordance with the Directive Principles, the menace of cattle trafficking must also end. For this, we need more Gaushalas.

Gaushalas can be set up in every major town and city along with a bio-gas plant in every gaushala; they could be placed under the supervision of temples, possibly on land owned by temples. Centers can be set up in each district to manufacture organic manure, cosmetics and other Ayurvedic products using cattle dung and urine procured from the gaushalas.

District-wise Cattle Protection Teams could be formed and connected through a network to stop cattle trafficking and keep a watch on temple gaushalas. Support from authorities like State Police, SPCA and AWBI must be sought to stop cattle trafficking so that the Transportation of Animals Rules are thoroughly implemented.

Special care must be taken to preserve the native breeds and increase their breeding by supporting farmers who preserve native breeds. Animal husbandry departments must make regular supply of cattle feed at subsidised rates for these farmers and gaushalas.

As organic farming spreads with general awareness of the ill-effects of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, organic manure will find a ready market, leading to a return to traditional organic farming methods. Strategic marketing of cosmetics and Ayurvedic products from cow produce will help in the sustenance of native cattle breeds, traditional agriculture and organic farming.

Given our glorious tradition of worshipping cattle, we may adopt new forms to celebrate religious occasions with our cattle wealth. Occasions like Krishna Jayanti and Nandi Jayanti could be celebrated in every village by bringing cows and bulls to the temples, akin to the Arattupuzha Pooram Festival (Thrissur) where elephants are lined up. The people can perform Gau-Puja and Rishab-Puja and individual farmers can be awarded for breeding native cows and bulls during the occasion. Every Shiva temple can have a procession of deities placed on Vrishaba Vahanam during utsavams. Reclaiming the divinity of cattle can check the Church which has already hijacked the Jallikattu, which is no more thanks to the Supreme Court.

We must remember that it is we who made non-vegetarian diet more frequent than vegetarian diet; we who opted for tractors in place of bulls for farming; we who promoted a small time village Jallikattu as big time entertainment; we who brought Jallikattu from villages to towns and cities and inflicted barbaric cruelties on bulls in the name of demonstrating our valour; we who promoted chemical fertilisers and disowned organic manure; we who forgot the sanctity attached to agricultural festivals; we who promoted trafficking of cattle, slaughter of cattle and export of beef. Let us correct ourselves and serve the noble cause of preserving our cattle wealth!

References:

  1. Supreme Court Order banning Jallikattu http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1951&Itemid=126
  2. The art of taming the bull http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/article2789984.ece#im-image-0
  3. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment – Notification http://envfor.nic.in/legis/awbi/awbi12.html
  4. Supreme Court Directions on Slaughter Houses Dated 23.08-2013 http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1810&Itemid=126
  5. Their Last Journey – Cattle Trafficking to Kerala https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8-Hi2N8FcE
  6. HC permits Jallikattu during church festival http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/madurai/HC-permits-jallikattu-during-church-festival/articleshow/11657912.cms
  7. 12-yr-old Killed in Jallikattu near Dindigul  http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/tamil_nadu/12-yr-old-Killed-in-Jallikattu-near-Dindigul/2014/02/23/article2072552.ece
  8. http://goo.gl/exi6WR

» B.R. Haran is a senior journalist in Chennai.

Narendra Modi