The Madurai District administration’s most recent move to make Aadhaar mandatory for all bull tamers participating in Jallikattu could not have come at a better time.With annual Jallikattu ‘celebrations’ starting from the 14th of January, this interim decision would go a long way in limiting the participation, and in some cases, the eventual fatality, of both, bulls and bull tamers. The decision also places greater liability on participants, who will now be unable to send ‘proxy players’ to play in their stead.
This timely win however, is bittersweet. While the biometric tsunami of the Aadhaar project shreds the very idea of privacy and civil liberty allowing countless government and non-government bodies the unlawful luxury of surveillance, today it serves as a gatekeeper to the tyrannical practices of Jallikattu in the name of tradition.
While the news has certainly not gone down well with the locals – this new impediment seems to be another step that may eventually lead to the phasing out of the ‘tradition’ of Jallikattu. For anyone outside the purview of animal activism, the case of Jallikattu makes for an interesting interplay between the cross roads of culture and civility.
Here’s how the events transpired in a nutshell - In 2011, the MoEF passed a notification banning the use of bulls as performing animals, thereby banning the event- the practice however continued under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009 until 2014, when, the Supreme Court struck down the state law, banning Jallikattu altogether. Following the protests of January 2017, the Tamil Nadu government brought a state law in place that legally allowed the practice to continue for now. These laws are currently under challenge at the Supreme Court by various animal organisations including FIAPO, and a constitution bench is going to look into the validity of such laws.
With all the elements of politics, drama and culture in the mix, the battle between the government, the judiciary, animal activists and upholders of Tamil tradition is far from over. The tete-a-tete- does however, reflect a shift in our collective conscience – that astutely shuns barbarism in the name of tradition or sport. The moral and cultural compass of our civilisation has broadened the horizon of what appears unjust today and the past few years are replete with examples of such incidents – in 2011 Catalonia became the first Spanish city to ban bullfighting, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s announced in 2015 that they will retire their circus elephants by 2018, thanks to Mexico banning the use of exotic animals for entertainment, and in 2016, SeaWorld also announced the end of Orca breeding and performances. The growing repository of cases banning the use of animals in entertainment, point to the medieval and archaic nature of such traditions whose time is nearing an inevitable end. Hopefully, a decade or two from now, we will be able to view animal entrainment as a quaint hangover of the 20th century – till then, let’s keep our marching hats on and fight the battle for the days to come.
Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO).