Jallikattu opens Pandora box on other celebrations

AP and Goa too have tradition like Tamil Nadu, court to hear plea tomorrow

GN Bureau | January 11, 2016



While the Centre’s notification lifting ban on bull taming sport Jallikattu during the festival of Pongal in Tamil Nadu has been challenged in the supreme court, other similar sport groups are demanding concessions. The issue will be taken up by a bench headed by chief justice TS Thakur on Tuesday.

The pleas against Jallikattu were filed by Animal Welfare Board of India, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India and a Bangalore-based NGO.

The four-year-old ban on holding of Jallikattu was lifted on January 8 by the Modi government in poll-bound Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions.

The decision to allow Jallikattu, days before traditional harvest festival Pongal begins alongwith bullock cart races in other parts of the country, had come through a government notification despite strong objections by animal rights groups.

Jallikattu also known Eruthazhuvuthal is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.

According to the notification, Jallikattu or bullock cart races shall have to be held with prior approval of district authorities and should be duly monitored by District Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and State Animal Welfare Board or district authorities to ensure that no unnecessary pain or suffering is inflicted or caused during the course of such events.

Meanwhile,  the public and politicians in Andhra Pradesh too have raised their voice, calling for the popular Kodipandelu or cock-fight to be held without any restrictions during next week’s sankranti festival.

At present, Kodipandelu is prohibited under the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960, and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974. Thousands of roosters fight to their death in the traditional rural recreational sport, with hundreds of crores of betting money also changing hands during the games.

The state police submitted an affidavit in the Hyderabad high court, which said that it would take the steps necessary to prevent Kodipandelu. West Godavari district superintendent of police Bhaskar Bhushan told HT that the cock-fights are prohibited. “There are laws in place preventing cruelty towards animals and against gambling.

Cock-fights are illegal and people are advised not to indulge in it,” he said.

Animal rights activists have demanded that the police must ensure the enforcement of the law and prosecute the offenders to serve as a deterrent.

“If the AP government allows the cockfights now, it would amount to contempt of the court,” said N G Jayasimha, member of the Animal Welfare Board of India.

However, the court, which heard the matter on Thursday, has passed no specific orders on the same.

“Over 80% of the people in the Godavari district support the sport, including women. And gamblers amongst them would not be even 10%,” said BJP leader Raghurama Krishnam Raju, who had approached the courts asking the cockfights to be allowed. “There is no order pronounced by the court banning the sport. All I am asking is to respect the cultural sentiments of the people. Unlike the bulls or cows, these are birds which would be killed anyway,” he said.

Bhimavaram in West Godavari district is the nerve centre of the sport.

While local leaders have openly come out in support for the sport, several MPs and ministers have done so on the sly. In 2015, the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP government was accused of turning a blind eye to the sport last year as a mark of gratitude to people who voted it into power.

Goan demand
The Centre’s decision to lift the ban on Jallikattu has triggered optimism in Goa, which has been trying to revive a traditional bull fighting event, Dhirio, which was banned following a high court order in 1997.

The sport involves two bullocks that are prodded by their handlers to charge at each other. Spectators have to purchase tickets for the event, and bets go up to Rs 500.

Last year, Chief Minister Laxmikanth Parsekar said that owing to demands by locals and to increase tourism, the government had constituted a panel to prepare a report on Dhirio. He said the committee would focus on welfare of animals that participate in the competition. “Health and safety of animals will be of paramount concern. All measures for their safety will be taken so that it does not attract any penal provision under the existing law. But it is necessary to revive the sport given its popularity among locals and visitors,” the CM said.

But the panel may take time to come out with a report as the committee’s head, MLA Vishnu Wagh, will be elevated to the post of Deputy Speaker of the Goa assembly next week, following which he may have to relinquish his position as panel head.

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