Chances are that you’ve recently heard of Jallikattu, Kamal Haasan and Pongal— that’s because media lenses are trying to fathom the mood in Tamil Nadu.
This weekend Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal. Pongal marks Tamil Nadu’s harvest festival and this time it falls on Saturday, January 14. A highlight of the festival is bull taming event called Jallikattu — where youngsters hug the hump of a bull and prizes are either tied to the horns of the bull or are given to the person who hugs it the longest. Jallikattu is traditionally held on the third day of pongal, called Maattu Pongal.
Over the years, the event—which was primarily organised around the local temple—became violent with numerous instances of animals being abused. This led to the Supreme Court banning Jallikattu in May 2014.
And thanks to Haasan, talk about the ban on Jallikattu has moved from a cultural and political issue to one that has caught the attention of national media. At a media event recently in Chennai, the film star expressed his support for the event calling it an integral part of Tamil culture.
In his film Virumandi, released in 2004, Haasan portrayed a character that takes part in Jallikattu.
Not to be left behind, GV Prakash, music composer and actor, has announced that he will release a song on Pongal, dedicating it to Jallikattu. Titled “Kombu Vacha Singamda” Prakash was quoted by news agency IANS as saying, “It’s a motivational song which will encourage everybody to support Jallikattu. The revenue we earn through downloads of this song will be given to the struggling families of farmers.”
Many actors, including Khushbu Sundar, have come in support of Jallikattu.
This has also united all major political parties in Tamil Nadu in the demand that the ban on Jallikattu be revoked.
Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has requested that the “groundswell of sentiment and support” for the event should not be unnoticed. “The Government of India should consider promulgating an ordinance removing the legal impediments, enabling the conduct of Jallikattu during Pongal, 2017.”
Chennai has also requested that the Union ministry of environment and forests “denotify” bulls as performing animals from a 2011 notification by the Ministry.
Panneerselvam recalled that both he and his predecessor, the late J Jayalalithaa, had put forth a demand to Modi that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests “should clearly denotify” bulls as performing animals and that Section 11(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, be “suitably” amended exempting Jallikattu.
Animal activists, however, favour a ban, listing the abuse the bull undergoes during Jallikattu. Activists have documented instances where the animal has been given alcohol, its tail twisted and chilli rubbed in its eyes to agitate the bull (in order to have a spectacle).