Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi

In 2011, the UPA government at the Centre banned Jallikattu stating that the sport amounted to cruelty against animals. Now, a decade later, many would be confused to see Congress leader Rahul Gandhi occupying place of honour at a Jallikattu event in Tamil Nadu on Thursday.

"I'm happy that Jallikattu is being organised in a systematic and safe way that both the bull and the youngsters are safe and everybody is being taken care of," he was quoted as saying. And while the Congress now seem to view this as a way of paying homage to the Tamil language and culture, the fact remains that the UPA under Chairperson Sonia Gandhi had held a very different stance.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh was Environment minister in 2011 when the Ministry issued a notification banning the use of bulls as performing animals. While the sport had continued under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, a 2014 Supreme Court judgement had put an end to that.
The court in its 2014 judgement had said bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races, and banned their use for these purposes across the country.

It was only in January 2016 that the Centre paved the way for the resumption of the dangerous sport - a fact that would soon become a bone of contention with the Supreme Court. The Centre had issued a notification lifting ban on Jallikattu in poll-bound Tamil Nadu with certain restrictions and told the apex court that it would be ensured that bulls were neither tortured nor made to take alcohol prior to Jallikattu. A year later, with the Supreme Court agreeing to delay its verdict to prevent unrest, Jallikattu made a return in Tamil Nadu.

It was also around this time that the Congress seemed to change its mind. A January 2017 news update quotes party leader RS Surjewala as stating that the Congress respected the rights of the people of Tamil Nadu to "preserve the culture and protect rich tradition of Jallikattu".

Till date, the sport continues with certain restrictions in place. And while there have been petitions calling for an end to Jallikattu, this does not seem likely to happen in the near future.

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Free Press Journal