6 observations on the Jallikattu-Kambala issue 

Let us establish a few things upfront-

1. I’m not an animal lover. I don’t keep pets.

2. I’m vegetarian, I support ethical treatment of animals. I don’t throw dogs off the roof or kill cockroaches by stomping on them. I don’t even honk at  traffic policecattles (read buffaloes and cows blocking our roads).

3. Jallikattu is not the same as Kambala.

4. Supreme Court is “Supreme” authority on our Constitution.

5. Laws cannot supercede SC orders but can be reinstated in a way that SC’s orders can be taken into account.

There was a time when people used to add disclaimers as postscripts. These days everything has to be disclaimed upfront.! Anyway..

Jallikattu is a traditional sport of Tamil Nadu in which people tame a raging bull. It’s very similar to the famous bull runs of Spain. 

The ban on Jallikattu first came into being in 2006 when a Madurai based man lost his son in the sport and then filed a case seeking a ban. There have been multiple bans issued, multiple laws formed to reinstate the sport and multiple cases seeking bans. PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a major petitioner and has fought cases seeking a ban on all such sports that include Karnataka’s Kambala, Maharashtra’s Bullock Cart race, cock fights and more. Kambala itself was banned in 2012.

Over time, a movement has gained support for Jallikattu and Chennai bore the brunt of the resulting violence of the protests carried out on Monday, 23rd Jan 2017. An ordinance pushed by the Tamil Nadu government through the President has overturned the rulings of SC. The repercussions of this ordinance is being felt in different parts of the country which are now standing up against the ban on their own traditional sports. The “Pandora’s Box” is now open and it has raised many conerns. Some of these are being raised in the public forum, some in my own mind –

1) Invoking an NGO’s nationality and questioning their sources of funding has been a common topic ever since the current NDA government came into being. However, the nationality of an NGO has never been more relevant than now. The understanding of cultures is very important before someone tries to ‘fix’ certain things in the society. Western perceptions of cultures is very very different when compared to how Indians perceive cultures. Though the organization’s Indian arm will be under an Indian’s control, the agenda is generally set by the parent organization. The involvement of an external organization in defining what’s right and what’s not for India isn’t something we should be taking easily.

2) In a pluralistic society like India, cultures and traditions are different in different regions. While the Vedic culture and the resulting Hindu society is prevalent everywhere, they are mere foundations for the modern day society. Cultures have evolved over millennia to reach where they are today and the difference between these cultures is huge. Each culture gives different levels of importance to different traditions. Jallikattu exists almost entirely in Tamil Nadu while Kambala is limited to one district of Karnataka. A ban that works for Karnataka may not work for Tamil Nadu because in Tamil Nadu the numbers that support the support will be far higher. It only makes sense if SC takes these factors into account when treating cases that deal with multiple cultures. The central government should also take such factors into account before bringing in blanket laws.

3) Jallikattu is a violent sport akin to Spanish bull runs. Both these sports celebrate a human being’s ability to control a raging bull. A cock fight or a bulbul fight are equally violent because animals are forced to fight each other. However, Kambala and Bullock Cart race cannot be deemed violent as they are racing sports just like Horse-racing. If the animals are treated badly and artificially enhanced to perform in the race with the use of drugs then there should be controls to check these. Banning every sport in a blanket manner is irrational. If we have to treat equals among equals then Horse-racing should be banned too. Can PETA take this cause up? 

4) PETA is an organization that vouches for ethical treatment of animals. If an animal is ethically trained to be part of a race, it should very well be okay with allowing the animal to be part of a sport. PETA should work towards helping the legislature in formulation of laws that define what is ethical and what’s not. Getting things banned isn’t in the interests of everyone. In a democracy like India, blanket laws don’t work.

5) Governments are setting extremely wrong precedents by overriding SC rulings with ordinances. The authority of the protector of our Constitution is being directly questioned which isn’t a good thing. In order to protect people’s interests if we can bring an ordinance to override SC’s ruling on Jallikattu, the same can be done in other cases like land acquisitions, BCCI governance, environment related cases etc. 

6) Tamil Nadu government just set aside SC rulings and issued an ordinance to protect its own interests. Will they behave the same way and restrain from being hypocrites if Karnataka violates SC ruling by passing a resolution to not release Carvery water to Tamil Nadu? How can a state that defies SC in case go the same to court seeking justice in a different case? How ethical is this? This very well means and reinforces my thought on justice – it’s justice only when it’s in line with your expectations. That’s totally unfair, yet true!

We should really take a stock of where we are as a society, as a nation.

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