Sunday, 29 January 2017

When Democracy speaks the wise listen!

And it has spoken loud and clear this time in Tamilnadu. Scans through monarchy and Indian mythology show that great kings have always heeded to the collective consciousness of people.

Call it a long-enduring sport, a slice of culture or a religious practice, Jallikattu has it all and is the reason behind the bustle. Emotions rode high and have now calmed down. So it’s time for some critical analysis.

Reference in Ancient Tamil Literature

A number of references can be found in the classical Tamil Sangam literature of world renown, on Jallikattu or ‘Eru Thazhuvudhal’ [Embracing the bull] which has been in vogue for thousands of years.  

One of the poems depicts an interesting Jallikattu scene. The bull comes out victor wearing the player as a victory garland. There are no references in these poems on the bull being slayed. So there have been regulations more in favour of the bull from the outset.  

Interestingly it has been used as a show of valour to win one’s bride in those days.

Saint Nammalwar sings in Nalayira Divya prabandham [a collection of 4000 devotional Tamil hymns sung by saint-poets known as ‘Alwars’] on how Lord Krishna played Jallikattu or Eru Thazhuvudhal [Embracing the bull] to win the hand of His lover Nappinnai [perhaps an equivalent of Radha]

‘அன்று உருவேழும் தழுவி நீ கொண்ட ஆய்மகள் அன்பனே!...’
[Lover of the cowgirl whose hand you won by embracing the bull that day …]

The bulls are an integral part of the religious services as Temple bulls. Jallikattu is used as part of the religious celebrations during Pongal the harvest festival that honours farmers.

It is considered as a mark of valour, pride and cultural symbol of Indian heritage. It is also an engaging sport for the youth and helps in preserving indigenous breeds and agriculture.

It can be construed why Jallikattu has had such an effect among the masses in Tamilnadu. People connect at religious, cultural, literary, social and economic levels with it and it has remained interwoven with their lives for generations. It is also quite possible that it would have spread to other parts of India in centuries bygone. For example it is played in some parts of Andhra Pradesh to the day.

Animal Love

Showing compassion and love to animals and all living beings is the noblest of principles. We indeed need to speak up for the speechless. However some of such speeches and statements made by the so-called activists such as the representatives of PETA India are insensitive to native values. In some cases they take a partisan stance devoid of a holistic outlook and critical analysis. There are brutal slaughter houses still in operation all over the world which yell for the immediate attention of animal lovers.

One of the humorous tweets from Maithun_TNP makes a strong point:
'Who is PetaIndia to decide against a ban about Jallikattu? Make a bull stand between a slaughter house and Arena, let the bull decide'. 

Vegetarianism is the first concrete, logical and practical step one could take as an animal lover. One of the arguments in this matter is that humans are higher species than their animal counterparts and therefore slaughtering them for food is justified. How convincing is that? In layman terms you can torture and slaughter animals in barbaric ways for food but can’t play with them because it’s cruelty. No jokes intended!

‘That doesn’t make Jallikattu right’ argue the so-called activists.

‘What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important’ said Dwight Eisenhower one of the greatest presidents of USA. The Eisenhower matrix is widely used to increase productivity in whatever we do. The ‘crying baby’ and ‘kitchen fire’ are more important and require immediate attention than ‘dusting the windows’.

The activists should first attend to the most important and urgent tasks such as closing down slaughter houses. Perhaps they are diverting their inability in doing this towards sensational alternatives such as Jallikattu. The gigantic business proposition and demand behind animal slaughtering can make it tricky for them but from an ideal standpoint that is the war they need to fight as animal lovers.

What about animal cruelty then? We can’t assume that the bulls undergo cruelty in legitimate Jallikattu until it is proven. When fairly played, it appears that the bulls enjoy as much as the player. How do we know they don’t? Some bulls stay in the arena on their own challenging and engaging with players all around. Are we trying to spoil their sport? We need more scientific, incontrovertible methods to capture and analyse animal emotions to perfection. Until then all arguments on animal cruelty in Jallikattu are educated assumptions at best and pathetic misnomers at worst.

Since there is a humongous lack of awareness in the subject, the ‘Jallikattu-ignorant’ should be educated with proper evidences before it goes to court next time. Why target the fouls when there are many legitimate goals scored in the game?  

The Animal Welfare Board of India has revealed that it would not challenge the Tamilnadu ordinance of allowing Jallikattu.

PETA is primarily an American organisation and their inputs can be referred but not necessarily taken as mandatory in an Indian context. 

Nevertheless the sport needs to be fully regulated, monitored, recorded and the process quality assured as we move forward.  Most would agree that regulation and not an outright ban would serve a sound resolution to the issue.

Food Corruption

Some sections of the protesters and ecologists claim that the Jallikattu ban is an envelope that covers more serious issues such as enabling foreign products and breeds taking over the dairy industry in India. Are these alien products and milk causing a sudden rise in diabetes rates and other health-related issues in India?

It has to be investigated further. The Food Corporation of India should take onus and clarify these to the nation. After all meeting Health & Safety requirements is paramount. The corporation should ensure dietary details are shown in all food products sold in the country. Let people decide what they want to eat and drink.  

Law is supreme

All said and done law is indisputably supreme. Any law-abiding citizen would and should fully attest to the rule of law. We don t need people protesting for everything against court rulings.    

The other side of the argument is that legislation and even judgements have changed in the past but the rights of humans to uphold their cultural values, have not. If a cultural value or belief prevents one committing a crime it has already played a proactive role in pre-empting a law & order catastrophe. So law and culture are intertwined. People sans law can create faults in society but law sans people can lead to a faulty society. The effects of mass resentment can be deleterious to the nation in the larger scheme of things which the laws are required to protect anyway. 

The constitution of India, which is the longest in the world, is the framework and founding principle on which the government and the judiciary stand. Hence the constitution of India is the supreme law. 

Part III of our constitution talks about Fundamental Rights and Part IVA, Fundamental Duties.

Article 29, in particular, is against discrimination. In simple terms citizens have the right to 'conserve and develop' their distinct culture. 

The Fundamental Duties of the citizens of India require all citizens to 'cherish its heritage and preserve its composite culture'. 

Jallikattu is an integral part of such a culture and in fact is part of Indian heritage. Hence according to our constitution it should be conserved, cherished, preserved and developed!

Protest for Jallikattu

There were demonstrations against the Jallikattu ban in 2013 in the Marina and it just had some 17 protesters.  How then the numbers swell up to some millions this time?

Students and Social Media and public resentment!

The self-rising, leaderless movement of students was nothing short of heroic. Tamil people from all over the world connected to the peaceful protests which shone as an example for the world. The last day's violence should be properly documented to know who instigated it. The government and police claim that it was some miscreants who were attacked and not students. But videos on social media tell a different tale. Police actions on peaceful protesters, if proven, is a horrific, weak step and would definitely make a sorry reading in history.

Until we are served with conclusive evidences on what unfolded on the last day, the protest stands to be evaluated based on the first six days. And the result of that evaluation is just exemplary. Mahatma Gandhi and Anna Hazare would be proud people now, students!

‘People rule people’

The original ethos of democracy in one line is just that and nothing complex. Somewhere down the line this vision seems to have gone off the radar or so seem to think the ruling class. Monarchy is now gone for good. Nobody is above public scrutiny and criticism. What effectiveness can be achieved if political leaders are still disconnected with public sentiments and values? The issue here is once elected the common man has no control over the rule. The shrewd politician would know by now that the public umbrage is deep and needs strategic addressing. However slogans loaded with personal attacks against politicians, leaders or activists are not required either.

What can be done now?

This energy should be taken forward into a movement but on intellectual and subtler levels for the larger benefit of the nation. Some such icebreakers below;

1.    Bring about air-tight legal representations on Jallikattu as stated in the constitution to conserve and develop our culture and heritage so as to achieve a permanent solution.

2.    Create a people's forum using social media to provide ‘value information’ on many national matters of significance

3.    Contest in elections: Identify the most qualified independent candidate for every constituency in the state and have representation from this Jallikattu team if required and qualified

4.    Demand explanation and Instigate suitable actions: The Food Corporation of India should explain what actions have been taken on GM food and external intrusion into the Indian dairy industry

5.    Expose and stop people taking money from political parties during election campaigns. Reject freebies

6.    Make a high profile documentary on Jallikattu in English showing how bulls are reared and played with, along with all related elements, to help educate the ‘Jallikattu-ignorant’ media and people 

7.    To appeal to UN Human rights in case of any violations

8.    Organise online fund raisers from all over the world to fight these legal battles

9.    Create people's governance through social media. Create awareness that no one is bigger than the public and that a political leader is just doing a job like any of us

10. Create e-governance: the government, bureaucrats and police department can take cues from students and create active forums in social media. Credibility and lost ground can be gained by being open and engaging with the public through social media in all important matters in state governance.

Stay focussed:

This Jallikattu movement should be taken forward to save Indian native businesses and farmers. Any character assassination painted on the protest that is untrue should not be allowed to deter the spirit of the young. The general public have thrown their weight behind the Marina protest. The focus is not just to achieve a permanent resolution for Jallikattu but to preserve its ecosystem, biodiversity, protect native breeds and agriculture. Bringing out authentic books, films and literature with adequate evidences in the matter can be of great help.

Jallikattu could just be a curtain-raiser of a larger change that people are seeking and seeing. If people in power are not seeing it now, they will. 

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