The Big Story: Bull

All eyes Tuesday morning will be trained on the Supreme Court in New Delhi, and what that might mean for the occupants of Chennai’s Poes Garden. But as All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary VK Sasikala awaits a legal verdict in a disproportionate assets case that will decide her political future and that of and Tamil Nadu, the rest of the state is supposed to be functioning. Chief among those functions is keeping its citizens safe. The deaths of as many as seven people across the state on Sunday in jallikattu events, coming after more casualties in the last week of January, suggest that this is not holding up at least on one front.

The causes for deaths during bouts of the bull-taming sports are quite varied. In some, they involve lax standards in building the enclosures into which bulls are released, leading to bystanders being gored. In others, drunk men found themselves in the path of the bulls. Reports from the various events held all over the state since Tamil Nadu passed a special ordinance permitting the traditional sport, which had earlier been banned for its brutality, suggest that dozens have been sent to hospital because of injuries sustained during the sport.

Tamil Nadu’s special ordinance came after days of protests mid-January across the state against the ban, with thousands gathering in Chennai’s Marina beach and elsewhere to insist that the prohibition was unfairly aimed at a Tamil tradition. The state government’s decision to permit the sport has opened up similar demands elsewhere, with Karnataka on Monday passing a bill to permit kambala, another bull sport that was banned for animal cruelty.

Politicians have used these often dangerous events as proxies for ethnic nationalism, with jallikattu being turned into a symbol of Tamil pride (even if its actual practice is very limited in the state). This fanning of the flames has also led to a much greater interest in these events, which is possibly one of the reasons the death and injuries toll from Jallikattu this year is so high.

Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon the government, now that it has passed a special ordinance, to do all it can in ensuring that the animals are not brutalised and there is no danger to human life. Playing with ethnic sentiment might be easy to do when attempting to build political constituencies, but its effects are hard to control and can often end disastrously – as in the case of those who have so far died at jallikattu events.

The Big Scroll

  • After jallikattu, what next? Tamil Nadu’s young people seek to build on protests, push for change, Vinita Govindarajan reports.
  • Is jallikattu ‘Hindu’ or ‘Dravidian’? An Indus Valley seal might have the answer, writes Shoaib Daniyal.
  • The solution to saving native cattle breeds lies in organic farming practices, not jallikattu, says Aparna Rajagopal.

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  1. Suhas Palsikar in the Indian Express considers the potential transformation in Tamil politics that Jayalalithaa’s death has opened up.
  2. Agriculture is sending mixed messages but demonetisation appears to have hit industry and industrial workers hard, says Roshan Kishore in Mint.
  3. S Murari in the News Minute looks at how the disproportionate assets case has chugged on alongside the careers of J Jayalalithaa and VK Sasikala over the last two decades.

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