CHENNAI: The agitation against the ban on jallikattu may have been one of the biggest agitations for a political cause, but the protests, with a strong current of Tamil identity, seem to have had no gainers among political parties. Unlike the 1965 anti-Hindi agitation, which began after months of campaigning by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the ‘Tamil Spring’, the name given to jallikattu protests, had no origin in a political party and was started by students with no political leanings whatever.
The major opposition party, the DMK could not take advantage of the situation even though its working president M.K. Stalin tried to be in the limelight by organising a rail roko and a hunger strike later. He was not allowed by the protesters to participate in the Marina agitations and his colleagues throughout the state too were sent back with strong slogans. Despite the strong resentment against the Central and state governments, the opposition parties were not allowed any political mileage by the protesters. However, the police action on the protesters on the last day gave a ray of hope for the DMK, which is trying to brand the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government as a puppet of the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre.
Another opposition party, the PMK too tried to get involved in the issue by announcing support to defiance of the jallikattu ban, but the protesters ignored the PMK too. The PWA parties too were left not able to establish a link with the agitations. Even a strong pro-Tamil outfit like the Naam Thamizhar Party was not able to get a foothold among the protesters, who sent back its leader P. Seeman when he arrived in a boat to support them. MDMK leader Vaiko stayed away from the protests, only occasionally coming out with statements and a letter to the PM in support of the protesters. Although the agitation did not benefit anyone, it stoked fierce anti-BJP sentiments right from the beginning and the saffron party’s plan of gaining a toehold in the Dravidian land has now taken a battering.
The police excesses towards the end affected the ruling AIADMK’s image and the goodwill the chief minister O. Panneerselvam could have won. Having struggled hard to get back jallikattu, the state government failed to ensure safety norms in the first event at Pudukottai. The jallikattu organisers who were stung by allegations of torturing bulls are keener than the officials to follow the regulations. As per the new procedure, jallikattu could be conducted by an individual, an organisation or group in places and on days notified by the Government after obtaining permission from the district collector. On his part, the collector will not only register the names of the organisers but also inspect the jallikattu venue and also form a Jallikattu Committee with officials from the Revenue, Animal Husbandry, Police and Health departments to oversee the conduct of the sport, besides ensuring it is conducted in conformity with the rules.
The organisers shall permit the authorities of Animal Husbandry Department to examine the bulls and should not administer drugs or irritants to the bulls. The event will be conducted in an open ground allowing 20 minutes’ rest to the bulls before they are brought into the arena. Each bull shall be provided adequate space to exhibit normal behaviour and be given a minimum space of 60 square feet. The owner of the bull shall always be by the side of the bull to assure the psychological safety and security of the bull. Fixing of closed circuit cameras at vantage points, the arena will be about 50 square metres in area and the bulls have to be embraced by the participants within this demarcated area.
The participants will not be permitted to stand in front of the bulls as they enter the arena or block the exit way. The participants shall be permitted only to embrace the bulls by their hump and run along with the bull for 15 metres or for 30 seconds or sustain three jumps of the bull. The participants shall not hold on to the tail, horns using their hands or restrict the movement of the bulls by holding on to the bulls’ legs. The participants violating these guidelines shall be liable to be debarred from participating further in the event. The 15-metre area shall be liberally strewn with coir pith for cushioning effect to prevent any injuries to the bulls or participants. One of the organisers, Rajasekaran said, “Traditional jallikattu involves only holding on to the hump of bulls. We fought hard only to retrieve this traditional form. There are no problems in adhering to the regulations as we intend to perform Yeru Thazhuval (bull embracing). But, after the jallikattu ban and protests, people from hundreds of villages, who have not seen the sport, want to hold it and the officials should ensure regulations at those places too.”