Answered: What is Jallikattu? Why did the Supreme Court ban Jallikattu?

Jallikattu, also called Eru Thazuvuthal (literally, bull hugging), is a Tamil custom celebrated on the day of Mattu Pongal, the day after Pongal (harvest festival). It finds a mention in the Sangam literature, and is being celebrated since nearly 2,500 years.
Jalli means coins and kattu means to tie. During the rule of Nayak kings, gold coins were tied to the horns of the bulls, and were claimed as the prize by the winner.

Bulls (Bos indicus) of indigenous breeds – mostly Kangeyam – are specially prepared for the event, by providing them with sumptuous food and care.

On the day of the event, the bulls are let loose from an enclosure (vadi vassal) and participants attempt to subdue them. However, only the humps, or in some cases the horns as well, must be held on to. Touching any other part results in disqualification.

The participant has to subdue to bull within 30 seconds or 4.6 metres, whichever is longer. Sometimes, the participants have to get the flag that is tied to the horns of the bull.
If the bull gets subdued, the participant wins and is rewarded handsomely. The bull is used for farm labour.
If the bull cannot be subdued, it wins. The bull owner is awarded handsomely, and the bull is set aside for breeding purposes, to preserve the vigour of the native breed. The custom thus acts as an incentive for the people to conserve the indigenous cattle breeds.

In recent years, the traditional way of conducting the festival has been distorted. Bull owners resort to practices such as beating, kicking, prodding the bulls and twisting and biting their tails and even inserting chilli powder into their noses in order to aggravate them, so that they win.

Lack of proper barricades causes the bulls to escape and get injured – falling down in the drains or getting hit by vehicles on the road.

Instead of the old custom of one man trying to subdue one bull at a time, nowadays several participants jump on the bull and try to subdue it, thus leading to greater chances of injury to the bulls as well as the participants.

Supreme Court, in Animal Welfare Board of India vs. Nagaraja (2014), banned Jallikattu. The reasons provided were:

  1. Violated Prevention of Cruelty Act, Section 11(3). Ground : Unacceptable Behaviors such as “, kicks, over-rides, over-drives, overloads, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it tounnecessary painor suffering or causes”.
  2. A21 of Constitution entitles right to life and personal dignity. For that, we need our environment to be safe. For that,animals, which are integral part of environment,must be free from cruelty. Court extended the scope of A.21 to include animals.3. International Perspective: “Animals must not be used for human comfort, as we must progress from anthropocentric laws to nature’s rights centric laws.” Further, Germany is cited as an example as it recently amended its Constitution to include animal rights.4. Jallikattu as a sport is “inherently cruel” as has been proved by the evidence submitted by AWBI. And Bulls are not anatomically oriented towards fighting.
  3. SC cited Adithan Case where it put forth that “Any custom or usage irrespective of even any proof of their existence in pre-constitutional dayscannot be countenanced as a source of lawto claim any rights”.

In addition, A.51A of our constitution mandates the citizens to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures.

There have been peaceful protests and an ordinance was passed recently, which allowed the festival to be conducted, overturning the order of the SC.
There is a need to regulate the sport properly, and ensure that the custom which has been practised since thousands of years, and is an integral part of Tamil culture, continues to be conducted as a friendly fight between the bulls and the participants – without the distortions and cruelty that have crept in during the recent decades.


Analyze the concept of secularism in the Indian context.

Secularism in the Indian context is the positive connotation of the word. It refers to “equal respect for all religions”. In this, it differs from the negative connotation adopted by the western countries, where it means a total separation between the Church and the State, with each of them not interfering in the affairs of the other.

India is a multi-religious society with religion playing an important part in almost all phases of peoples’ lives. It has a millennia long history of syncretism, with Christians, Jews, Muslims and Parsis emigrating and getting assimilated in its composite culture. India itself is the birth-place of the remaining major world religions – Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Therefore, at the time of independence, it would not have been possible to strictly divorce religion from the affairs of the State. So our constitution makers adopted the positive connotation.

As per Indian secularism, the State itself does not have any religion – “Dharma nirpekshta”. It gives equal importance and extends equal opportunities to all religions “Sarva Dharma Sambhav”, allowing all of them to co-exist and flourish.

Articles 25-28 in the constitution provide for free profession, practice and propagation of religion, freedom to various denominations to manage religious affairs, and exempt religious institutions from payment of taxes.
At the same time, it lays down constitutional protections to safeguard the religious customs and practices of the minorities and enables them to administer their educational institutions as a fundamental right.

While the Western secularism puts the Church and State into silos, Indian secularism allows the State to interfere in secular affairs related to religion, such as economic, financial or political activities related with religious practices. State thus manages the Wakf boards as well as major temples within the country.
Article 44 of the Constitution also directs the State to enact a Uniform Civil Code to harmonize the personal laws that are religion-based and different for different religions at present.

In the seven decades since independence, there have been incidents which have led to blemishes on the secular fabric of India. Rise of communalism and fringe elements threatens India’s history of communal harmony and peace. However, the culture of tolerance and respect for all religions prevails, and the examples of such culture far outnumber the former incidents.

For example, Hindus celebrate the festival of Makarsankranti by flying kites, and most of the kite-makers belong to the Muslim community. Muslims and Hindus respectfully close down their shops during the processions of Muharram and Ganesh Chaturthi.

Supreme Court rulings over the years have also ensured that the secular ethos of India is maintained, and that religion does not interfere or impinge upon the fundamental rights guaranteed to the individuals.

Thus, Indian secularism is a unique concept that has been adopted and devised keeping in mind the unique needs and characteristics of the Indian culture. It denotes the core principles of tolerance and respect that have been ingrained into the Indian conscience since millennia.


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