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This Horrific 1000-Year-Old ‘Tradition’ Is Being Revived To Showcase ‘Indian Masculinity’

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By Shambhavi Saxena

Villagers try to control a bull during a bull-taming festival on the outskirts of Madurai town, about 500 km (310 miles) from the southern Indian city of Chennai January 16, 2013. The annual festival is part of south India's harvest festival of Pongal. REUTERS/Babu (INDIA - Tags: RELIGION ANNIVERSARY ANIMALS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY) - RTR3CIYB
Source: REUTERS/Babu

Imagine being tied, force fed alcohol and stabbed. Imagine trying to put up a fight, as your body is wracked by a frenzied mob of young men. Imagine that all of this is allowed to happen to you because the highest court in the country has allowed it. Let’s hope this never happens to you, but it is happening to bulls in India, as the Supreme Court has revived the thousands-of-years-old tradition of Jallikattu.

According to PETA, “terrified bulls are often deliberately disoriented through substances like alcohol; have their tails twisted and bitten; are stabbed and jabbed by sickles, spears, knives or sticks; are punched, jumped on and dragged to the ground.” Why? Because all of this is required for a demonstration of Indian masculinity.

Sentiment and animal-loving aside (though I beg you to remember that as well), this is simply an instance of how non-human living things, along with the vast poor and minority groups of this country, become caught in a game of political gains. The Jallikattu tradition has been revived, despite a 2011 ban. Some have seen this as an attempt to curry favour in a state “where the party (BJP) has no presence.” A clever move perhaps, except for the blaring inconsistencies in the Hindu-nationalist party’s ideology. Oh, and the brutality. Did I mention the brutality?

A father in Dadri was killed last year over the most tenuous of rumours of beef-eating. Shortly after, noted BJP member Sakshi Maharaj issued death threats to anyone caught with beef. And now this same party has allowed the violent, unnecessary ‘sport’ of Jallikattu? What happened to cow-protection? Or is that only for lactating cows we can suck dry and then cast aside? We all know Hindutvawadis’ so-called ‘love’ for cows is poorly thought out and utilitarian at best, so it’s not really a surprise then that they would use Jallikattu bulls as tokens to draw potential voters.

But this move has not been without severe and biting criticism.

A villager tries to control a bull during a bull-taming festival on the outskirts of Madurai town, about 500 km (310 miles) from the southern Indian city of Chennai January 16, 2013. The annual festival is part of south India's harvest festival of Pongal. REUTERS/Babu (INDIA - Tags: RELIGION ANNIVERSARY ANIMALS) - RTR3CIYCThe news is depressing, yes, but the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) has been quick to respond and intends to take the matter to the court. “We are surprised that the Centre is ready to diminish the stature of a Supreme Court order so brazenly,” said a top official of the AWBI.

Meanwhile, social media too has responded to the lift on the ban, with two distinct voices – those who oppose Jallikattu, and those who want to conflate food-practices, poverty, religion and animal cruelty into a unidimensional, un-nuanced debate.

Any sort of intelligent critique these days is immediately labelled anti-national, or dismissed as “Adarsh Liberal” ideology – the ‘creative’ (read: ridiculous) way in which trolls online have begun silencing dissent. But there is no use in preserving a culture of cruelty. There is no use in waxing eloquent about the achievements of our culture, when this same culture has for millennia condoned the forced immolation of brides, medically-unsound child marriages, and religious intolerance of the highest degree!

Cruelty by any other name is still cruelty and there should be zero tolerance for those who defend it as ‘tradition.’

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  1. The RoyalChola

    “The pride of Tamils restored! We treat and take care of Bulls and cows as our family members! once a year, on Pongal week – Tamils Harvest Festival , the next day after Pongal, we celebrate for Bulls and Cows called as “Maattu Pongal”!
    On that day we decorate and pamper them, Evening we play with them on the play ground…called Manju Virattu!
    Will the non-tamils, educate themselves on Chola Imperialism, their rich culture and heritage? Thank you!!

  2. Saravana kumar

    Big dislike to the way this post is written and projected.
    Its been part of Tamilians traditions dateable to 2,000 B.C. to 1,500 B.C. Visit our village to find about the love and affection people show to their work mate (Bulls). In the name of animal protection and false propagation about national language north indian media is trying hard to hide us. Tamil society had seen many such hard times in the past, stood firm against many obstacles to show who we are.

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