First, it was Union Government which allowed sports involving bullocks across the country and now BJP-led government in the state tabled a Bill in the Assembly to lift the ban on bullock-cart races, ostensibly to deepen its relations with the farming community. The demand from political parties to legalise the animal involving sports had been growing, especially after the Tamil Nadu Assembly in January unanimously passed a Bill to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, to allow Jallikattu.
There is a ban on bullock-cart races after the Supreme Court directives in 2014 in Maharashtra. The state government in March 2013 had lifted the ban after the apex court had allowed bullock-cart races with some riders. However, the Supreme Court reinstated the ban as the organisers of the races failed to follow the conditions laid by it. Shiv Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao been fighting a legal battle in the Supreme Court in support of the sport for the past three years and had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha also.
Union Government allowed sports but with the guidelines on how these sports should be conducted. While uplifting the ban imposed in 2012 by the Supreme Court, the Centre has put some norms for conducting the races, which are popular in rural areas. Supreme Court’s ban on the bullock cart racing in Maharashtra had come on petitions filed by the Shirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil, who belongs to BJP’s ally Shiv Sena. That time the government was of UPA but now it is of BJP.
A gazette notification by the Union Environment Ministry says that bulls may be continue to be exhibited or trained as performing animal at events such as Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu and bullock cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat. The races shall be monitored by the district society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and State Animal Welfare Board, besides the district authorities. The bullock cart races are traditionally held in Western Maharashtra’s Bhosari, Khed, Satara and other areas. The Bulls get injured; they are made to run fast by beaten on back and by pulling their nostril strings. Some bulls get permanent injuries and they are sent to slaughter house for butchery. These controversial bulls racing festival like Jallikattu and bullock cart races, is cruel and abusive.
Major injuries and deaths also happened, not only to animals but for human being also, from such sports. In 2004, many were reported dead and several hundreds injured during Jallikattu event. Over 200 have died from the sport over the past two decades. Unlike in Spanish bullfighting, the bull is not killed and there are rarely any casualties suffered by the bulls. Animal activists have objected to the sport over the decades. The Animal Welfare Board of India took the case to the Supreme Court for an outright ban on Jallikattu because of the cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety involved in it. On 27 November 2010, the Supreme Court in accordance with the law enacted on the regulation of events, permitted the Tamil Nadu government to allow Jallikattu for five months in a year from January 15. The court also directed the District Collectors to make sure that the animals that participate in Jallikattu are registered to the Animal Welfare Board and in return the Board would send its representative to monitor the event. The state government ordered that Rs. 2 lakhs be deposited by the organisers for the benefit of the victims, which also include the victim’s family, in case of an accident or injury during the event. The government also enacted a rule to allow a team of veterinarians would be present at the venue for testing and certifying the bulls for participation in the event and to provide treatment for bulls that get injured.
Actually, animal activists say it is a bad decision by BJP government and done for political reasons. However, Animal Welfare Minister Maneka Gandhi, who was once vocal on these issues now decided to be keep silence as her Government has lifted the ban and she cannot go against her party. Now, the bullfight would be between the political parties too and that includes BJP and AIWB. Since, all the parties have spoken in favour of the sport; this would not tilt the political scales in Tamil Nadu elections and the alliance mathematics will place the major roll. However, every national as well as regional political parties will try to take credit out of this.
The previous UPA government ordered a ban in 2011 but it was not implemented until 2015 after the Supreme Court had dismissed a slew of legal challenges. Tamil historians claim that the sport dated back to the second century AD and predates the Spanish matadors. Most of the people of this country are “horrified” that the same authorities that claimed to care for cattle are now allowing the cruelty on it even after it has been banned by the apex court of India.
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