Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao on Saturday promulgated an Ordinance, paving the way for the bull-taming sport of Jallikattu to be held in Madurai and other parts of the state on Sunday, but that failed to resolve the standoff as protesters stuck to their demand for an amendment in the Central law.
Announcing the Ordinance, which makes a Tamil Nadu-specific exception in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, a Central law, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam said it had been brought in after obtaining the President’s approval. “Jallikattu will be conducted with customary fervour all across the state and with all necessary safeguards,” he said.
The Chief Minister also said the government would introduce a Bill to replace the Ordinance on Monday, the first day of the Assembly session. The Ordinance — amending the Act to include Jallikattu bulls in the category of “trained animals used in the military, police, exhibitions, zoos or for educational and scientific purposes” — would have been applicable only to Tamil Nadu. Protesters, however, say they want nothing short of an amendment to the Central law since the Supreme Court had based its 2014 ban on Jallikattu on the Centre’s 2011 notification, which had included bulls in the category of animals that can’t be used as performing animals. It’s this that the protesters want changed.
A C P Zinnah, who is coordinating with protesters in half-a-dozen districts, told The Sunday Express that they would not cooperate with the government until their demand was met.
With protests continuing across the state, associations of cattle owners have decided not to send their bulls and cattle for the Jallikattu events being planned for Sunday. At Chennai’s Marina Beach, one of the protesters was heard saying, “Let the Chief Minister organise a Jallikattu in the secretariat, he need not go to Alanganallur because we will not let any bull join his event.”
Sources close to the government said it had no strong point-person to negotiate with the protesters, who coordinate largely through social media. The government is also unsure about who among the protesters to talk to; the over two lakh people at Marina Beach have representatives, but they aren’t permanent and pass on the baton to other protesters.
Some of the representatives of the protesters clarified to The Sunday Express that they were “not shifting the goal post” after the Ordinance and that they had been demanding an amendment to the Central law ever since their first meeting with state ministers on the midnight of Tuesday.
The protesters said their fight wasn’t for Jallikattu alone but for half a dozen other cattle sport events such as Manju Virattu, Vadam and Eruthukattum Thiruvizhaa, which had been affected by the court’s ban.
Balakumar Somu, who was part of the legal battle for Jallikattu, however, said the state Ordinance is “good enough as it is already above the Central law”. “Not just Tamil Nadu, all states in India, including Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, should come out with such an Ordinance to protect their respective sports,” he said, adding that he hoped the protests would be called off soon.
Earlier in the day, AIADMK General Secretary V K Sasikala claimed that she had directed the party and the government to make “sustained efforts” for the conduct of Jallikattu.
Though the situation remains uncertain, Chief Panneerselvam and a team of ministers left for Madurai late on Saturday. Besides Alanganallur, which has about 50 Jallikattu bulls, the government plans to organise events in Palamedu (100 bulls) and Avaniyapuram (200 bulls) – all in Madurai – with ministers in attendance.
Over 2,500 police personnel are being deployed in Madurai. The district administration has brought in heavy vehicles to prepare an arena at Alanganallur, where the Jallikattu event will be held.
A medical team, which includes veterinary doctors, too reached Alanganallur on Saturday evening. Government officials said they expected more than 20,000 people to turn up at Allanganallur.
On Saturday, crowds of protesters in different parts of the state swelled further – Marina Beach alone held over 2.5 lakh people.
The protests, however, continue to remain peaceful. With less than 100 policemen on active duty at Marina Beach, the protesters were seen managing traffic along the beach road. In other parts of the state, protest venues held cultural performances by villagers and students.
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