Jallikattu is an ancient bull running sport in Tamil Nadu, which starts at the Pongal celebration. This tradition has been strongly opposed by animal rights activists and has been put on hold by the Supreme Court of India, importantly within few days after the Indian union government lifted its ban on the sport.
Jallikattu meaning "bull-taming” see bulls let loose as young men compete among themselves to overpower them. The bulls are reared from young age to run in the bull races, the athletes who run with the bulls observe a 10 day fasting period before the event which includes eating vegan food, forbidding smoking, alcohol consumption and even sex. For the people who raise these bulls, their bulls are alleged to be sacred to them.
The centuries old event was cancelled last year for the first time after the previous UPA government imposed a ban citing cruelty. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) activists also claimed that the bulls are fed liquor and have chili powder thrown into their eyes before they are released from a holding pen and are chased by the men. It is also said that horns of the bulls are sharpened with broken glass, and also the bulls can suffer serious injury and even die during the run. Over the last few decades, more than 200 people have also been gored to death by the bulls. Last year, the event did not take place due to the court ban.
However in wake of Sate elections approaching and also in-line with the popular sentiments for this traditional festival, ever since the Supreme Court backed the Jallikattu ban, citing cruelty to animals as the reason, all parties in the southern state have been demanding that the Centre should restore the event through an Ordinance. The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha even wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to use an executive order or ordinance to allow the sport to be held. "A lot of safeguards are in place and the event must be allowed," asserted the Tamil Nadu government, adding that the sport "has been in vogue for centuries".
The Indian union government also asserted that animal rights activists have "no fundamental right" to challenge the sport. However, the age-old bull festival was not celebrated this year and protests were marked throughout the state.
The Supreme Court will hear the matter next on March 15, 2016.