India: Court Hands Animal Rights Activists Setback in Bull-Taming Case

Prabhat Sharan and Jhumur Deb
Mumbai and Guwahati, India
170131-IN-bull-620.jpg Indian protesters shout slogans against a ban on the Jallikattu bull-taming ritual, during a demonstration in Chennai, Jan. 20, 2017.

India’s top court Tuesday dealt animal rights activists a blow by rejecting a challenge to a new law that bypassed a two-year-old ban on a traditional bull-taming sport.

Massive protests over the issue erupted in the southern state of Tamil Nadu this month. But even as the Supreme Court dismissed the plea filed by the Animal Welfare Board, it rapped the state government for failing to control violence during the protests that aimed to restore the centuries-old tradition of Jallikattu – which the same court banned in 2014 on grounds of being extremely cruel to animals.

The popular sport involves men wrestling with bulls, which are allegedly prodded with sharp sticks and tortured with chili powder to keep them agitated.

“Law and order is the primacy in a civilized society. Convey this to your executive to maintain law and order,” the court told the lawyer representing the Tamil Nadu state government, referring to violence that peaked on Jan. 23 when police tried to evict thousands of pro-Jallikattu protesters from Chennai’s Marina Beach.

The protests, which were also marred by stray incidents of arson, prompted the Tamil Nadu government to put out an ordinance, or special order, bypassing the court’s 2014 ban on the sport. The ordinance was replaced by a law after it was approved by the state assembly.

Last week, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party-led government told the court it wished to withdraw its 2016 notification that allowed Jallikattu and other traditional sports involving bulls, saying the notification was not needed after the Tamil Nadu assembly unanimously passed the new law.

“Nobody says people can’t fight for a better law. [But] why so much commotion,” the court said, while giving the state government six weeks to explain the validity of the newly promulgated law, according to NDTV.

Protests elsewhere

The success of the protests in Tamil Nadu has also triggered rallies against bans on outlawed sports involving animals in other parts of the country.

On Saturday, thousands of farmers in south India’s Karnataka state took to the streets to protest against a ban on a traditional buffalo race called Kambala.

“We have explained several times that Kambala race tracks are constructed in a manner that neither the buffalo nor the plough rider sustains any injury,” Gunapala Kadamba, who spearheaded Saturday’s protests, told BenarNews.

“It is important such rituals are preserved for posterity. This festival gives farmers an identity, besides binding people in a peaceful manner while also boosting tourism in the region,” Kadamba said.

In the northeastern state of Assam, traditionalists are gearing up to organize large-scale protests against a ban on an annual harvest season event that involves making nightingale birds fight.

“The spirit of the annual festival has been snatched away because of this ban. The Assam government should take a cue from Tamil Nadu and lift the ban,” Sukleshwar Kalita, who has been training birds to fight for decades, told BenarNews.

But animal rights activists frowned upon the idea of restoring such events.

“We are against any form of these animal fights. We are aware the people raising demands to lift bans on these cruel traditions are politically influential, but we will oppose these attempts tooth and nail,” Sangeeta Goswami of People for Animals told BenarNews.


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