Tighter regulations cannot eliminate the element of danger intrinsic to jallikattu
In situations involving humans and animals, Murphy’s law takes a strong hold: if things can go wrong, they most likely will. Jallikattu may have drawn the attention of animal rights activists for the innumerable accounts of cruelty to bulls, but the deaths fall mostly on the human side of the ledger. The animals suffer but generally survive the ordeal, while a few youth lose their lives. A tragedy as in Viralimalai in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu, where two men were gored to death by bulls, was waiting to happen. Whatever the precautions taken, and there were many, one cannot prepare for the behaviour of a rampaging bull. Viralimalai jallikattu may not be as famed as the Alanganallur or Palamedu events, but this year it had the full weight of the government behind it. The event was organised by Health Minister C. Vijaya Baskar, a bull-owner himself, in an attempt to create a ‘record’ for the largest number of bullsin a single arena. The event got a bigger profile with Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami in attendance. Multi-tier metal galleries were erected on either side of the arena to accommodate the thousands who had turned up to watch the contest. Double barricades were in place at the vaadivasal, the entry point for the bulls, but the tragedy happened at the exit point, the open area for collection of the bulls after the event. The contest was over, and the bull-tamers were no longer chasing the bulls. But how were the bulls to know? An owner trying to rein in his bull was gored to death by another behind him, and a spectator who wandered out of the protective cover at the scene of action bled to death on being pierced in the abdomen.
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Could anything have been done differently? In keeping with the guidelines set by the Supreme Court to regulate the sport, the Health Department had also deployed teams of doctors from Pudukottai. Medical experts from Tiruchi and Thanjavur Medical Colleges were deployed to attend to emergency cases. A makeshift operation theatre was also set up at the venue. After Sunday’s tragedy, jallikattu events of the future might have barricades at the collection points too. But danger is in the very nature of the blood sport that is jallikattu. Unpredictability is intrinsic to the sport. Attempts to ban the sport have been opposed on the ground that it is an inseparable part of Tamil Nadu’s culture. The Tamil Nadu government in 2017 took the ordinance route to allow for the holding of jallikattu following a ban by the Supreme Court, and the Centre exempted bulls from the rules framed for ensuring the well-being of performing animals. After every loss of human life the regulations might get tighter, but the danger to the life and limb of participants, spectators, and bull-owners will remain in the conduct of jallikattu.