Congratulations to the people of Karnataka. You have successfully fought for your cultural rights and your representatives in the State Assembly have done something in your cultural interests. 

For the uninitiated – the President of India has signed the amendment to Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 thereby legalizing the organizing of Kambala – a Buffalo race that takes place in Mangalore (Mangalore) region of Karnataka, India.

The sport, along with Tamil Nadu’s Jallikattu, were under attack and faced death because of a Supreme Court order banning Jallikattu in a public interest litigation filed by PETA. The ban on Jallikattu, a Spanish bullfight styled sport, resulted in violent protests triggering questions on what’s right for a society and what not?

In my previous post on the same issue, I had laid down some of my own observations, as a Kannadiga (a Kannada speaker) and as someone who doesn’t believe in cruelty to animals. Though I’m happy for my fellow people, there are things that we still need to worry about –

1. The legislature surely has rights to amend and enact laws. But, it shouldn’t try to overturn Supreme Court rulings too often. It sets a bad example for future generations.

2. Supreme Court is the protector of law, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It has given impractical and unpopular judgements in many cases. Cases that deal with culture, tradition, language and religion must be dealt with utmost care taking into the sentiments of the people into account, yet trying to push the boundaries of a civilized society by an inch more.

3. Kambala, Jallikattu and many such sports that are based on animals need to be legally recognized as national heritage. Doing so will allow us to lay down strict guidelines on how such sporting events should be held. When horse racing and dog racing are legal in India and don’t amount to cruelty, then why is it that these traditional sports face heat? PETA’s argument here is that animals like buffaloes and bulls are not genetically designed for such high performance scenarios. This could be true. Yet, like every animal, they too have their own physical and mental limits, beyond which they can’t perform. Lawmakers should take these into account and form rules around each sport while clearly mentioning what accounts as ethical racing and what not. Doping, use of alcohol or any substance to kill pain or enhance performance should be strictly banned. Animals used for such purposes should be registered with an authority, bred and well fed for one purpose only and should be served with pensions post retirement on the lines of dogs used in police service. 

Banning something is easier said than done. We may have successfully banned Sati, untouchability and many such evil practices, but it requires a mindset change to wipe them off completely from the society. Sports like Kambala and Jallikattu shouldn’t be banned because some lover of animal or some forward thinkers call for it. A handful of forward thinkers can’t take decisions for the society. We should see if a society is ready for such a change.

Societies should be left to decide for themselves in matters that deal with their cultures and traditions. A knee-jerk reaction or adoption of law in letter will only lead to chaos in the society. The administration should only ensure that such traditions don’t violate the basic tenets of our constitution including equality, secularism and sovereignty. Everything else can wait for the right time.