I spent last Saturday at the city’s Blue Cross, while many my age, including plenty of friends and acquaintances, gathered along the shores of Marina beach, a state and two borders away from my newly adopted home, when the agitation for Jallikattu was at its most elevated.
The mood, where I lived, stayed relatively sombre, although I could never escape the potency of those dreaded questions that sought to singularly determine my position on the issue. One was either pro-Jallikattu or pro-PETA, depending on which question was asked first. It was inconceivable for most that one could be in favour of both since, in a battle of sentiments, nuanced rationale is often locked behind a vadi vasal (closed space the bull is kept in).
For longer than they should have, these emotions hijacked the issue and gave the protests a war-like tendency: the vilification of anyone who supported the other side.
PETA India was the bold and tragically overwhelmed face of the other side. For all the nobility in its intent, an organisation that has been fighting for animal rights for over a decade and a half in our country came under the thrashing force of a mass that increasingly believed that the survival of its native breeds depended on the sustenance of the sport and its associated undertakings.
Two sides with profoundly different but veritably benevolent intentions primed a revolution adorned with more than its fair share of irony.
The early stages of the protests were characterised by slander and denigration that disgraced the cause for the remainder of its span. It cannot be overstated, however, that for the longest duration and right until the very end, the manner in which the protests took place was remarkable.
The great majority of those who participated in it did not have their lives, livelihoods or even entertainment, if nothing else, contingent on the promulgation of Jallikattu. While it can’t be denied that Tamil solidarity is strongest when rallying against a foreign foe, consider for a moment the selflessness of the city’s middle class, of students and young employees, who thronged the sands of Marina in the thousands, for a cause that would have no conceivable impact on their daily lives. This was the capital standing up for the farmers, for the bull-rearers and for all those who genuinely believed that Jallikattu was an irreplaceable part of their culture and livelihood.
The question that’s been asked, somewhat rightly so, is that of all the prevalent social injustices that the youth of Tamil Nadu could rally around, why was Jallikattu the one that raised such heightened activism? The moral consequence of this kind of enquiry, however, is that if you cannot protest for everything, then you should protest for nothing. If you will agree that Jallikattu wasn’t a cause completely devoid of merit and that at least some part of the intent of protestors was altruistic, even if largely propounded by their collective cultural identity, then the events could, in fact, be justified, or at least understood.
Even if the cause remains questionable, as it should be, the Jallikattu revolution reinvigorated the possibility of a massive peaceful and democratic protest, of the strong fighting for the vulnerable and of order amidst an unmitigated chaos, as the state seems to be evolving a penchant for, of late.
If the Jallikattu demonstrations are diagnosed wholesale as insanity, then I have full faith in the continued absurdity of such protests.