By Shambhavi Saxena:
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.
#Jallikattu is just an excuse to woo votes. It encourages misplaced machismo, which is being passed off as Tàmil culture
— Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity) January 8, 2016
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.
Kudos to the Centre for lifting the ban on #Jallikattu. Animal cruelty should be banned only in films, not real life.
— Shirish Kunder (@ShirishKunder) January 8, 2016
During #jallikattu ‘innocent bulls’ are ‘tortured and murdered’, but in slaughterhouses, they are garlanded and given Sahitya Akademi awards
— Shefali Vaidya (@ShefVaidya) January 8, 2016
Barbaric projection and indulgence in activities such as #Jallikattu, despite being banned by SC does not augur well for us as a society..
— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) January 8, 2016
The 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.’