The year’s first Jallikattu death has just taken place at the opening traditional bull-taming sport season in villages near Madurai. Promoted as a valorous sport that was the pride of Tamils since ancient times, it became so emotive that it convinced everyone — Tamil Nadu, the Centre, the courts — that Jallikattu must be allowed. The Jallikattu protests, involving upto 20 lakh people who gathered at Chennai’s Marina Beach to express solidarity with bull-tamers and others arrested in January 2017, was a veritable “Tamil Spring” movement. A state law replacing an ordinance allowed the sport to go ahead, and 2018 is the second season since the revival. The death of a spectator at Palamedu is the first fatality, but more can’t be ruled out given the poor safety measures.
When the Jallikattu crisis was earlier resolved, those conducting events had promised to follow every safety guideline laid down by animal activists, who have stood by their opposition on the grounds of cruelty to animals, and the government. However, all that seems only on paper given the instances of raging bulls scattering spectators near the arena and the animals running wild in thorny areas beyond fenced zones outside the entrance to the “bull pit”. While crowd control issues may arise from overenthusiasm for Jallikattu in rural areas, as seen in events near Tiruchy, there’s reason to believe the bulls aren’t being treated as well as promised. If Jallikattu is indeed the pride of Tamils, it’s clear they must take far greater precautions to prevent deaths of bull-tamers and spectators as not allow cruelty to animals.