Sport, tradition, pride and drought
Protests raged on in many parts of Tamil Nadu against the Supreme Court's decision to ban the traditional bull-taming sport of Jallikattu, despite the ordinance passed by the State government, which the Governor cleared on Saturday. In Alanganallur, a town in Madurai district, for example, people refused to hold the event till a permanent solution is arrived at and not just an ordinance. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam was unable to inaugurate it at the scheduled time in Alanganallur and was forced to leave for the State capital. Although the ordinance is a temporary measure, reports indicate that it will be replaced by an Act as soon as the Tamil Nadu legislature convenes. The agitation for Jallikattu has received widespread support from both those living in the state and Tamils abroad. Some of the messages coming out of the agitation should hold pointers for future governments at the Centre. In the protests, a recurring theme is that the Tamil interests have been marginalised in the Indian Union. There is now a reaffirmation of Tamil identity and the federal spirit.
For example, any move to promote Hindi as a unilingual language in educational and administrative fields will be met by a stream of cultural interests and political pressure. Meanwhile, the death toll from Jallikattu-related events held in defiance of the court had risen to three on Sunday, raising cries for greater regulation to enhance public safety. The State government needs to firstly formulate rules and regulations for Jallikattu. Any attempt to bypass these rules for public safety and animal protection needs to be met with harsh punishment. An attempt at justifying these lapses will only strengthen the arguments posed by PETA. In the midst of these protests, what has largely escaped the attention of the media is the severe drought that has afflicted Tamil Nadu. Following the worst North-East monsoon in 140 years, at least 140 farmers have committed suicide during the drought between October and December. Lack of irrigation water has already hit the Cauvery delta region flows in the river severely affecting the major paddy crop. In the aftermath of the harvest festival of Pongal, it seems painfully ironic that all the focus has been on a bull-taming sport and Tamil pride instead of the state's worst agricultural crisis in years. The State government helplessly awaits Centre's assistance it has sought at over Rs. 30,000 crores for drought relief.