For Tamils, the centuries-old rural sport jallikattu is integral to their culture
For Tamils, the centuries-old rural sport jallikattu is integral to their culture

The chorus for reviving banned animal sports is rising in two Indian states after Tamil Nadu rushed through a law legalizing jallikattu before the Supreme Court was expected to deliver its judgment on a central government notification last year.

Karnataka and Maharashtra are hoping to revive similar sports following weekend protests. The coastal state of Karnataka wants to bring back kambala, or buffalo racing, and western Maharashtra state hopes to lift a ban on the traditional bullock-cart race.

But on Tuesday, the government told the Supreme Court that it wanted to withdraw the notification it submitted on jallikattu, the Indian Express reported.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar last week told the Hindustan Times the notification, which was issued on January 8 last year, allowed the traditional sport while accommodating animal care concerns.

Jallikattu is mainly staged by farmers in Madurai district during the harvest festival, Pongal. It involves men trying to tame bulls by grabbing their humps and hanging on until the animals stop.

During a special assembly session in Chennai on Monday, the Tamil Nadu government replaced an emergency ordinance with a law allowing the centuries-old rural sport.

In Karnataka, kambala is a traditional game of the Kannada people and it had to be continued, said the state’s Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, adding that he will seek the federal government’s intervention to lift the ban on the sport.

Devaragunda Venkappa Sadananda Gowda, former chief minister of Karnataka, said kambala was part of the heritage of the Kannadigas, who, like the Tamils, treat buffaloes as their own family members.

Another former chief minister Bookanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa said his Bharatiya Janata Party would make every effort to hold kambala.

Pro-Kannada activists in Karnataka, led by controversial leader Vatal Nagaraj, protested at Freedom Park in Bangalore on January 22, demanding the state government to pass an emergency ordinanceto legalize kambala similar to what Tamil Nadu did for jallikattu.

Kambala involves two buffaloes being yoked together and forced to race down a muddy and water-filled track as a man whips them to run faster.

Organizers have stopped whipping the buffaloes following a high court stay on the rural sport last November after animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) filed a petition citing cruelty and stress to animals.

The court will review the stay on an interim petition filed by committees supporting the rural sport on January 30.

The Shiv Sena party and farmers in Maharashtra have called for the lifting of a ban on the traditional bullock-cart race ahead of local elections. They held protests on January 21 by blocking roads in Chakan near Pune.

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