Is Jallikattu as brutal as we think it is?
We try and focus on casualties suffered by both the bulls and the people to see if the numbers make for a good reading.
Jallikattu, the traditional Tamil ‘bull-taming’, or in softer words, a ‘bull-control’ sport has been grabbing all headlines for the last one week. The sport, which has been historically played during Pongal, is an age-old Tamil tradition possibly being practised from the Tamil classical period (400-100 BC).
What triggered the headlines was the decision of central government to uphold the ban on the sport on 14 January 2016 after lifting the embargo just six days prior to it. The first of the protests was organised by the World Youth Organisation (WYO) on 16 January last year in Chennai, and they simultaneously demanded a ban on PETA in India.
A brief spell of silence followed, but with the stroke of new year, the demonstrations were put to action again. 8 January 2017 saw hundreds of protesters marching from the lighthouse to the labour statue at the Chennai Marina. While there is no dearth of people raising their voices in support of the age-old practice, various animal welfare organisations all over the country have opposed the ‘sport’ in strong words.
Also Read: Why Jallikattu should be legalised in India
In the first place, the ban by the Supreme Court was imposed citing animal welfare issues itself. Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) played the biggest part in making the sport illegal, and the Supreme Court during the verdict stated, “We, therefore, hold that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is right in its stand that Jallikattu, bullock-cart race and such events per-se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government.
“Consequently, Bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or Bullock-cart Races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.”
However, here, maintaining neutrality, we will try and focus on the casualties suffered by both the bulls and the people participating in the sport.
Some statistics provided by the AWBI show that the sport is not harmless, per se. Across Tamil Nadu, the event witnessed as many as 43 ‘human’ deaths, from 2008 to 2014, after which Supreme Court imposed a ban on it. In addition to that, four bulls lost their lives as well in the time period.
The tradition which is considered very close to the Tamil culture, in excess of 100 people were injured seriously in eight different occurrences in the six-year time period. Moreover, 170 people, who were at those events as nothing more than onlookers were severely injured as well.
In its verdict, the Supreme Court mentions a few incidents to show how the humans are as much affected by the event as the bulls.
In Avaniapuram, a total of 55 persons were injured during the jallikattu event. Of the 26 people who were injured while trying to tame the charging bulls by clinging to their backs, five were seriously injured. Twenty-four spectators, including a police constable, were injured following a melee after some bulls ran into the crowd. Five people were injured when a section of the gallery erected for spectators collapsed because of severe crowding.
In Palamedu, 21 people, including 11 tamers, were injured during the jallikattu event. Ten spectators were injured by bulls who escaped the fighting arena. The 21 people who suffered injuries were admitted to the Palamedu Primary Health Centre. One onlooker, who was hit in the abdomen, was later moved to the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai while others were treated as outpatients.
In Alanganallur, 38 people were injured during the jallikattu event. Twenty-one were tamers, and others injured included onlookers and owners. Two people who were seriously wounded were admitted to the government hospital in Madurai.
Going back to the AWBI report, two separate events in Vadamalpur and the other in Alangudi Vanniyar Viduthi, both in Pudukottai, saw around 300 people suffering serious injuries. More than 400 people were inflicted with various levels of injury in Alanganallur in 2011.
All in all, the traditional practice has seen a total of 5,263 participants and onlookers were injured, 2959 of them being serious injuries.