Tuesday, 17 January 2012

'Jallikattu not a festival but a commercial event'

Sriram Balasubramanian
Trashing Tamil Nadu's bull-taming festival, Dr S Chinny Krishna, vice chairman Animal Welfare Board of India, say that Jallikattu is not just unjust to the bulls but is also illegal the way it is carried out. He spoke to Sriram Balasubramanian.

What are your thoughts on the Jallikattu festival in southern India?
It is not a 'festival'. A festival or gala is an event, usually and ordinarily staged by a local community, which centres on and celebrates some unique aspect of that community according to a commonly accepted definition.

Jallikattu is today a purely commercial event at which bulls are tortured. Only money, liquor and gambling play an important part in the event. As a proud Tamilian, I am ashamed that this takes place on the holy land on which our most revered sage, Tiruvalluvar, strode talking about kindness to animals.

Why do you think it has been practiced for such a long time?  
Sati and child marriage have been practiced for an even longer time.

Do you think the Supreme Court ruling has been followed by the people?  You are fully aware that it has not been followed by the administration or the people. You are aware that gross cruelty took place even last year and the Indian Express even published a close-up photograph of a participant rubbing chilli powder into the eyes of a bull. You are also aware of the number of deaths of participants and spectators, not to mention injuries to the terrified animals.

Is it good enough to provide mere guidelines?
This should be good enough if people and the administration are law abiding. However, in India where we have some of the best legislation in the world, enforcement is so lax or non-existent that the usual procedure seems to be to go back to the courts to get a direction to see that the law is enforced.

Is a step like banning this festival too radical in nature?
Of course not. We must learn to have zero tolerance for injustice in any form and Jallikattu comes not only as injustice to the bulls but is also illegal the way it is carried out. However, even if it were legally allowed, one cannot condone cruelty to animals, especially in the name of sport or religion.

Have you looked at the Spanish model where the Spanish still have bullfighting since it is a part of their cultural fabric?
Whether Spain uses bullfighting or not is irrelevant. We have a culture that is older than Spain's and my culture does not include cruelty. However, since you have mentioned it, may I tell you that the last bullfight in Catolonia in the heart of bullfighting territory was on January 3, since Catalonia has voted to ban bullfighting.

How do you plan to monitor this year's Jallikattu?
We are doing our best to ensure that the government of India notification on July 11, 2011, prohibiting the use of bulls as performing animals is enforced and that Jallikattu does not take place.

All district collectors have been repeatedly reminded about the notification and all have been made aware that the use of bulls as performing animals is banned. In the hearings before the Supreme Court, the Attorney General of India, Gopal Subramanium, and a battery of lawyers representing the state of Tamil Nadu in the case filed by the Animal Welfare Board of India accepted that these are indeed performing animals and, consequently, the Jallikattu bulls were got registered by the AWBI for last year's Jallikattu.

The AWBI cannot register them this year in view of the ministry's notification. Not even one of the approximately 1,000 bulls registered last year by us have fulfilled the terms and conditions under which registration was given. Documents as required after registration were not submitted as called for.

What are some of the steps that you intend to take to avert or reduce the impact on the animal during the festival time?  
We intend to stop it completely.


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