Progress against public bullfighting in Tamil Nadu but not in Uttarakhand

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2011:


CHENNAI,  Dehrudun–The first weekend of 2011 Pongal harvest festivals in Tamil Nadu,  India,  brought a drop in reported deaths and injuries in jallikattu,  the predominant Indian form of participatory bullfighting–but chiefly because new rules discouraged many communities from hosting jallikattu.  Relative to the unrestrained mayhem at Bunkhal village in Uttarakhand state a month earlier,  that was major progress.

Where jallikattu proceeded,  deaths and injuries continued, despite  enforcement of the new rules by the Animal Welfare Board of India at direction of the Supreme Court of India.  Injuries to bulls are seldom tabulated,  but may be inferred from the counts of human deaths and injuries,  chiefly suffered in attempts to tackle bulls.

Tamil Nadu media reported two human deaths and 21 injuries at Avaniapuram on January 14,  one human death and 68 injuries at Palamedu two days later,  and 72 human injuries at Alanganullur on January 17,  half again more than at Alangunullar in 2010.

The 2011 Alanganullur jallikattu was stopped by officials for having become too violent before all the bulls were released. Participants then stoned police,  injuring 12.  The police responded by clubbing at least 40 people in two baton charges.

The object of Tamil Nadu-style jallikattu is for a participant to untie a prize strung between the horns of a bull.  The bull is pursued through city streets by a mob usually numbering in the hundreds,  who typically wrestle the bull to the ground and seize the prize after repeated attempts.

Major Pongal festivals often include the release of hundreds of bulls,  one after another.  Reports of the number of bulls released at Alanganullur varied from 335 to 577.

The Supreme Court of India in January 2009 reaffirmed a July 2007 ruling that jallikattu constitutes cruelty to animals,  and that jallikattu held under a limited exemption granted in January 2008 did not meet the Supreme Court-imposed condition that harm to the bulls must be prevented.  The Supreme Court acted after 21 people were killed and at least 1,614 were injured in January 2009 jallikattu, four years after 13 people were killed and 350 injured in a single weekend.  New restrictions introduced in response to the Supreme Court verdict reduced the number of jallikattu,  cutting the 2010 toll in Tamil Nadu to six people killed,  442 injured.

The current rules for jallikattu require organizers to obtain permits a month in advance.  Jallikattu sites must be fenced,  with spectator galleries certified as safe a week in advance by the local public works department.  Deposits are required against the possible costs of deaths and injuries.  Participants must be at least 21 years old and must wear uniforms excluding the color white.  The bulls must be certified as fit by government veterinarians,  and must have photo identification.  The bulls must not be tranquilized or tormented.

Practiced by the Indus Valley culture as long as 9,000 years ago,  participatory bullfighting is combined with sacrifice at Bunkhal village,  near Dehrudun in Uttarakhand state,  in the Indian far north.

Responding to a report that 3,200 buffalo and goats were killed in December 2009 at  a rock pile locally honored as a temple to the goddess Aradhya Devi,  People for Animals/Uttarakhand on December 1,  2010 won a Dehrudun High Court order forbidding public animal killing and dumping carcasses.

Arriving to observe  on the night of December 10th, PfA/Uttarakhand secretary Gauri Maulekhi e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE, “We were reassured to find hundreds of police,”  but  “They had no instructions to act.  They could only advise politely and not use any kind of force.”  A main road was barricaded,  but “The traditional routes around the temple hill were left unguarded.  Drugged or drunken men,  women,  and children streamed in.  There was a crowd of 30 to 50 people with each animal.  Each person carried a weapon.”

Despite the efforts of PfA Uttarakhand members,  “The mob took over and the first buffalo was hacked by an ecstatic crowd,” Maulekhi wrote.  “Girls danced seductively in front of the dying bulls.  Women bathed their children in blood.  Children were made to sit on a wall so that they get a clear view of the killing.  Young men chased the buffalo,”  before disabling them with swords.

PfA/Uttarakhand member Pankaj Pokhriyal videotaped much of the massacre,  later posting video excerpts to web sites.
“A woman nearby declared the Devi alive in her and sunk her teeth in the neck of a living lamb.  A man took the severed head of a goat and drank blood from it,”  Maulekhi continued.  “Some children showed exemplary courage by shouting” against the killing,  but “were beaten with sticks by the drunken devotees and their clothes were torn in front of 20 policemen.  When the children asked for help, the policemen told them to go to their superior officer and complain.”  The superior officer was nowhere to be found.

“At least 50 buffalo bulls and 450 goats died,”  Maulekhi finished.  “The police sat like dead bodies.  Their commanders will now have to answer in court,”  where Pokriyal’s videotapes will be introduced as evidence of failure to enforce the Dehrudun High Court order.

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