Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu's Madurai were marked by the commencement of the annual Jallikattu (bull taming) event at Avaniyapuram on Thursday, January 14. A total of 788 bull tamers and 430 bulls reportedly competed this year.
The event was attended by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) youth wing leader Udhyanidhi Stalin. Other senior Congress leaders including KC Venugopal, state Congress Committee chief K S Alagiri, and Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayansamy also attended the event, reported The Indian Express.
Speaking to the media, Gandhi said that he had come to support the traditional culture. "I have come to give a message to people who think they can run roughshod on Tamil people, who think they can push aside Tamil language and Tamil culture," he added.
Several people were protesting against Gandhi's visit with #GoBackRahul trending on Twitter. Various BJP leaders and other opposition parties accused the Congress leader of opportunistic politics. Speaking to News18, Tamil Nadu BJP spokesperson Narayanan Thirupathy said that the UPA govt was responsible for the ban on Jallikattu by adding Bulls in the list of performing animals. "You have no moral right to come to Avaniyapuram," Thirupathy said.
UPA's Ban On Jallikattu
In 2011, when the Congress-led UPA was in power, the environment ministry had issued a notification banning the use of bulls as a performing animal. However, Jallikattu continued in Tamil Nadu owing to state legislation. It continued under the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009 brought out by the then M Karunanidhi government.
Later, in 2014, the Supreme Court struck down the state law and banned the sport. The Congress party's 2016 Tamil Nadu Assembly election manifesto had supported the ban.
Later, in January 2017, massive protests erupted in the state against the top court's 2014 decision citing animal cruelty. After days of protests, the AIADMK government passed an ordinance allowing Jallikattu. Congress later changed its stance on the issue, saying it supported the traditional sport.
Jallikattu, also known as 'Eruthazhuvuthal', Jallikattu is a traditional bull-chasing sport of Tamil Nadu and part of four-day Pongal celebrations. The sport involves a natively reared bull that is set free inside an area filled with young participants. The challenge lies in taming the bull with bare hands.
COVID Guidelines Issued By The Government
The state government had given the go-ahead despite the ongoing pandemic and issued various guidelines.
According to a media report, bull tamers at Alanganallur, Avaniyapuram, and Palamedu underwent RT-PCR tests earlier this week. The players participating were asked to provide COVID negative certificates. The government also limited the number of spectators, to 50 per cent.