Chennai/New Delhi, Jan 12 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Tuesday urged the central government to immediately issue an ordinance to permit Jallikattu, hours after the Supreme Court stayed the bull taming sport citing cruelty to the animal.
As news of the ruling stunned Tamil Nadu where the event is held during Pongal celebrations starting on January 14, Jayalalithaa said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi: "I strongly reiterate my earlier request to promulgate an ordinance forthwith to enable the conduct of Jallikattu."
Jallikattu, reputedly one of the oldest living sports, was part of the traditional festivities ingrained in the cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu, the chief minister said.
"It is very important that the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu, who have a deep attachment to the conduct of the traditional event of Jallikattu, are respected," she added. "On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, I urge you to take immediate action in this regard."
Jayalalithaa's communication followed a Supreme Court stay on the operation of a central government notification issued on Friday that gave the green signal to Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu.
Observing that Jallikattu amounted to heaping cruelty on animals, an apex court bench headed by Justice Dipak Mishra said the sport cannot be permitted in the 21st century.
The Supreme Court had in May 2014 banned the sport. On Friday, the central government issued a notification, in response to appeals from the Tamil Nadu government, effectively reversing the 2014 ban.
Petitioner Gauri Maulekhi said they had wanted the central government notification quashed. "The court has stayed it." The apex court issued notices to New Delhi and other respondents.
Bulls are specifically bred for Jallikattu, which involves young men trying to tame the powerful animals. Many youths get killed or are injured in the process but the event's popularity has only grown.
Animal rights activists, who welcomed the Supreme Court order, say there can be no justification for anything where animals are treated harshly.
"I am delighted," S. Chinny Krishna, vice chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), told IANS in Chennai.
"This is a huge victory for animals. We hope the government of Tamil Nadu will follow this order and not allow Jallikattu to take place," added N.G. Jayasimha of AWBI.
But T. Velmurugan, founder of Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi and a former legislator, told IANS: "As per the law of the land, the Supreme Court has decided. The fault (is with) the central government. It could have amended the law properly by deleting bull from the banned list."
According to him, the Tamil Nadu government can allow Jallikattu as a sport since sports falls under the concurrent list of the constitution.
PMK founder S.Ramadoss said the central and the Tamil Nadu governments were both to blame for the bar on Jallikattu.
In a related development, an expert on cattle warned that a blanket ban on Jallikattu would greatly harm Indian breeds of bulls in the long run and lead to import of foreign animals.
"The banning of Jallikattu and the demand for ban on other rural sports will ultimately result in the vanishing of native species," K. Sivasenapathy of the Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation told IANS in Tamil Nadu.
He said there was no chance of cruelty to the Jallikattu bulls as they were checked by doctors before and after the event.
The bull runs for a short distance in an open ground during which time youths have to hold on to its hump for a minimum period of time, he said.
"The government should jail the owners if their bull is found to be tortured. Punish the guilty and not the sport," Sivasenapathy said.