Jallikattu is a cock and bull story; where were celebrity protesters during the Kudankulam stir?

Ebin K Gheevarghese
Jallikattu is a cock and bull story; where were celebrity protesters during the Kudankulam stir?

I am monarch of all I survey,                                                                                                                             My right there is none to dispute,                                                                                                            From the centre all round to the sea,                                                                                                               I am lord of the fowl and the brute.                                                                                                     ― William Cowper

Jallikattu protests (TN's Arab Spring, according to The Times of India) ushered in a much-needed second wind for the bull-taming sport.

But let's face it; it's only a matter of time before 'coups without honchos' start circling the drain. Arab Spring is a case in point (Hosni Mubarak was acquitted). Be that as it may, the groundswell of protests helped lift the ban on Jallikattu.

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The staying power of Tamilians is the stuff of legend. More than 50,000 people gathered at Chennai's Marina beach as part of the protests that went on for weeks.

The sounds of dissent further amplified after film stars and politicians joined the chorus. The pro-Jallikatu movement was an open-and-shut case to start with, given the only lot that stood to lose were the bulls themselves.

Lots of arguments were thrown around in support of the sport: Jallikattu is part of Tamil culture; it promotes selective breeding; it helps preserve the genetic diversity of the bovines, to name a few. But a close look will render the arguments flimsy. And it's high time we call a spade a spade.

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Dravidians take a lot of pride in their tradition, but it behooves us to look at how Jallikattu became part of the culture in the first place.

Jallikattu is held in connection with Pongal, a harvest festival, and the sport is inseparable from its agricultural theme. A lot rode on bulls during the time when the beasts were used for ploughing and stud services. The taming sport was held in high-regard, given the agrarian importance and the genealogical implications.

To top it all, the gladiatorial-level of entertainment it brought kept the sportsman spirit of the community alive. Everything was hunky dory until the Luddites met their match: technology.

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Jallikattu was slowly on its way out even before the ban was in place (2014). With tractors replacing bulls for tilling the land, and artificial insemination raining on the bull's stud parade, the upkeep of the animal had turned into a costly affair.

The diminishing returns took a toll on Bull-raisers (The Alambadi breed became extinct and the male-female ratio dropped drastically).

So in a way, if it weren't for the ban, the bull-fighting sport would have died its natural death sooner or later. It's also worth mentioning that it wasn't PETA that banned the sport, but the Supreme Court of India, on justifiable grounds.

Humans, as a species, dictate the food pyramid in a lot of ways. That noblesse oblige feeling — as the master of all the fowl and brute — is the driving force behind such blood sports. And it's nothing to be ashamed of. That's how we are set up for the web of life. But the whole eyewash, saying the sport is for the welfare of bulls, is just nonsense.

There's no bull's perspective at work here. The Jallikatu protests typified the collective frustration of the masses over the lay of the land. And the double standards of film stars and politicians who hijacked the whole platform begs the question: Where were they when the Kudankulam protest was at its peak?

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