Jallikattu was all set to go urban. The strictly rural phenomenon was trying its best to come to the city but efforts at getting an event together while satisfying all the conditions have not yet succeeded. Getting a date close to the Pongal festival season has not fructified.
Interest in Jallikattu exploded last year when Chennai witnessed the revolutionary pro-Jallikattu protests by apolitical youth at the Marina beach after coming into the city from the heart of Jallikattu territory in the Madurai region. Chennaiites, who were solid in backing the right to hold the valorous sport of the Tamils, would love to participate as spectators if the sport does come to their city.
The towns of Avanaiyapuram, Alanganallur and Palamedu, near Madurai, will as usual kick off the excitement of Jallikattu by presenting it in their traditional Pongal slots. Bull owners, tamers and organisers were trying to include Chennai in their itinerary to show to city slickers what the sport is all about. However, there are huge issues pending to be tackled.
The new set of guidelines issued by Animal Welfare Board of India to conduct Jallikattu, which includes putting the bulls through nicotine and cocaine tests, has put the Jallikattu fraternity in a spot of bother. It is doubtful if all the diktats of the animal safety activists can be adhered to. How feasible are expensive drug tests? People involved in the bull taming sport say such tests could be done only at random. But they must be undertaken so that the purity of the sport is preserved and the cheats are put on notice.
On the eve of a historic first in Chennai, we speak to a few personalities associated with the sport like president of Jallikattu Peravai, a veterinarian, and bull tamers on the situation.
Rajesh, state president, Veera Vilayattu Meetpu Kazhagam, says, “Some of the guidelines like alcohol testing, which is done during the issuing of pre-event fitness certificate, are already being followed. Also the group insurance for the bull fighters / tamers is also been a practice for some time now...we follow all these things. But, the new condition of subjecting the bulls to cocaine and nicotine tests is not at all feasible. These tests involve taking blood samples from the bulls. A bull takes part in 8 to 9 events and if it is to be subjected to a test each time imagine the cost. Also taking out insurance for bulls is unnecessary as a bull dying during a Jallikattu event is a rare event.”
He says they ensure there’s no cruelty involved in the sport. “Even before entering the Vaadivaasal, we make sure that these bulls are in perfect condition to fight. If we find any bull behaving abnormally, we remove them from the event through an exit gate near Vaadivaasal.”
Echoing the views of Rajesh, veterinarian Bhoopathy says, “Tests to determine whether a bull had been made to consume alcohol to enhance performance could be done easily through a breathalyser, but the new tests of cocaine and nicotine are a cumbersome process.”