Chennai: Even as Tamil Nadu erupted in joy as the central government on Friday announced its decision to allow the traditional 'Jallikattu' or bull taming sport during the state's Pongal festival, the union government's decision to create an exception to the Supreme Court ban has enraged animal welfare groups.
The Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is mulling the possibility of challenging the notification.
Animal welfare associations have called the government's new notification "unconstitutional" and said that it goes against the spirit of the Supreme Court's order.
People at places like Madurai and Trichy, where Jallikattu is traditionally held, were the most elated.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the decision.
"I am very grateful to you for your prompt response in the matter, which has enabled the conduct of 'Jallikattu', a sport which upholds traditional cultural values and traditions of Tamil Nadu and has great historical significance and also ensures the ... continuance of traditional breeds of indigenous cattle," she said in a communication to Modi.
"I am very happy to learn that the ministry of environment, forests and climate change has issued a notification that has paved the way for the conduct of the traditional sport," she said.
The central government bowed to the strong demand made by various organisations and political parties to permit the traditional bull taming sport that was banned by the Supreme Court to prevent cruelty to animals.
A file picture taken on January 15, 2013 shows participants attempting to hold down a bull during the traditional bull taming festival called 'Jallikattu' in Palamedu near Madurai, around 500km south of Chennai. Pic/AFP
The central government, in a gazette notification, removed bulls form the list of animals that are banned from public display.
The central government allowed bulls to be exhibited as a performing animal at Jallikattua and bullock-cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Gujarat.
Leaders of various political parties in Tamil Nadu welcomed the central government's decision to allow Jallikattu.
DMK president M.Karunanidhi thanked the central government and the steps taken by union minister Pon Radhakrishnan and others for lifting the ban on the traditional sport.
MDMK leader Vaiko and PMK founder S. Ramadoss also welcomed the Centre's decision.
However, the permission is subject to conditions like sanction from the district collector or the district magistrate.
The bullock-cart races are to be held on proper track and the bulls have to be tamed within a distance of 15 metres from their enclosure.
The bulls should also be put to proper testing by officials of the animal husbandry and veterinary department ensuring their good health and no performance enhancing drugs are administered to them.
In May 2014, the Supreme Court upheld a notification by the environment and forests ministry categorising bulls in the list of animals which shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals.
The Tamil Nadu government filed a review petition before the Supreme Court.
"The revocation of the ban on bulls in Jallikattu is illegal and goes against the Supreme Court order. In its earlier order upholding the central government's notification of banning Jallikattu, the apex court had said the government had applied its mind while taking a decision," S.Chinny Krishna, AWBI vice chairman, told IANS on Friday.
According to Krishna, as per the apex court order the government cannot change the condition without the concurrence of the Animal Welfare Board.
"Our lawyers are looking into the issue and an appropriate decision will be taken. We can file a case against the government notification," Krishna added.
Krishna said the apex court said any welfare legislation will gain precedence over tradition or culture.
"Sati and child marriage were part of the Indian culture. Do you agree with that now?" he countered when it was posed that the bull taming sport was part of the Indian culture for centuries.
Krishna said the case against the use of elephants in Kerala temples during festivals will also come up for hearing in the apex court soon.
He said during Jallikattu, the bull is subjected to intense cruelty like applying chilli powder on its genitals, forcing the animal to drink liquor, biting the animal's tail and other forms.
"I am a proud Tamilian. And cruelty to either man or animals is against my culture," he added.
"The Supreme Court judgment has categorically said that Jallikattu is illegal. This new notification is all against the Supreme Court judgment. The Animal Welfare Board India (AWBI) is going to pass a resolution and then challenge the order," Anjali Sharma, a member of AWBI, told IANS.
Sharma also recalled the Supreme Court's decision that if any change was to be made to the notification, the AWBI should be consulted.
"Sati was also a traditional practice, but we had to oppose it. This tradition is also such which is inherently cruel to animals," added Sharma, opposing the view that traditional practices must be allowed to continue.
Through a notification on January 7, 2016, the union government said animals like bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, lions and bulls "shall not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal", at the same time making an exception for use of bulls at Jallikattu and bullock-cart races in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Punjab and a few other states, with few safeguards to protect these animals.
The notification superseded the earlier notification dated July 11, 2011, which was quashed by the Supreme Court.
Chaitanya Hoduri, a member at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), echoed the AWBI views.
"At first, it is illegal to allow the conduct of Jallikattu, according to Supreme Court order. We will definitely challenge this as it is unconstitutional," Hoduri said.
The Supreme Court in May 2014 upheld a notification of the environment and forests ministry including bulls in the list of animals which "shall not be exhibited or trained as performing animals".
The apex court ruled that bulls cannot be used as performing animals for Jallikattu events.