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Jallikattu: 'Tamil rights, not pride, have been hurt'

By Shobha Warrier
January 20, 2017 08:49 IST
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'Politically, Tamil Nadu has faced several setbacks in the past -- the water sharing issue with Karnataka, on Katchatheevu, on the Tamil fishermen issue...'
'In all these issues, the central and state governments acted in an inefficient and incompetent manner.'
'That must have stayed in the minds of the people.'

Tens of thousands of young people have been congregating at the Marina Beach in Chennai, shouting slogans against the central and state governments for banning Jallikattu that is celebrated in some Tamil Nadu villages as part of Pongal, the harvest festival.

On Maattu Pongal, cows and bulls are worshipped and celebrated, and the finale is Jallikattu.

Ever since the Supreme Court banned Jallikattu three years ago, the sport has been forbidden in the villages.

For the villagers, Pongal has not been the same anymore.

Dr R Manivannan, professor and head of the department of politics and public administration at the University of Madras, discusses the current protests with's Shobha Warrier.

How do you look at the outpouring of emotions in the form of the protests at the Marina Beach and at various places in Tamil Nadu?

I see this as a manifestation of pent up anger in society against the Centre and the state government.

Politically, Tamil Nadu has faced several setbacks in the past like the water sharing issue with Karnataka, on Katchatheevu, on the Tamil fishermen issue...

But in all the issues, both the central and state governments acted in an inefficient and incompetent manner.

That must have stayed in the minds of the people all these years, and the anger within is finding its expression through a cultural form.

In the case of Jallikattu, both the Centre and the state had been promising to get the consent to make it happen, but nothing was done.

Now, they feel that there is no government in Tamil Nadu virtually.

All these things emerged in the form of a protest.

By anger against the Centre and the state, do you mean demonetisation and the political developments in Tamil Nadu and the way it is being ruled after Jayalalithaa's demise?

All these factors played a part in the reaction.

If things had gone well and the only issue was Jallikattu, they would have given the government a chance.

They do not see this as a new government in Tamil Nadu; they are the same set of people who are more keen on getting power rather than addressing the political and social problems of the state.

What you see is a kind of resentment against all political parties.

Then over the years, they have consistently seen the Centre taking an anti-Tamil position.

Some youngsters were so angry and emotionally charged that they were even shouting for a separate Tamil Nadu at Marina Beach, which clearly was against the Centre...

Yes! Who will shout for a separate Tamil Nadu just because Jallikattu was banned?

Various things are taking place; all issues concerning the state were being disregarded and disrespected since a long time and this is a way of showing their anger at the Centre.

Do you think Tamil pride has been hurt because of all these issues?

I will put it this way -- it's not the Tamil pride, but Tamil rights that have been hurt.

Political rights, water rights and many such rights have been overlooked.

In the name of the larger interests of the nation, why should the lives of Tamil fishermen be sacrificed for the Sri Lankan government? And for how long?

Defining nationalism as per the rules of the Centre is not correct. No State will go on interpreting nationalism this way.

A series of events over the years have resulted in the awakening of Tamil consciousness and some young men are raising slogans like a separate Tamil Nadu which I do not agree with.

But if you go on pushing people away from the national framework and define nation according to the ideas of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, then this kind of incidents will happen.

Do you feel this kind of uprising can happen in other states as well? Say, for instance, in the north-eastern states which have felt alienated...

It depends on how the Centre looks at different states.

If something like this happens in Maharashtra, it will be looked at as Maratha pride.

There is so much of cultural chauvinism and intolerance to other people in Maharashtra, but it has never been questioned by the Centre.

Because of the dominance of the Hindi belt at the Centre, do you feel New Delhi does not understand the culture of the south?

I do not think there is any reason for north Indian leaders to understand the southern culture and tradition.

For them, these are things that exist in the periphery.

Even in debates on television on these issues, you see people talking from their perspective.

In fact, it is not about the south Indian or north Indian perspective; it is about understanding.

It is not that only north Indians are concerned about animal rights, south Indians too are concerned about protecting animals.

Do you feel the courts have the right to decide how traditions and rituals should be followed in the country?

Courts have the right to do so, but how you present the case to the court is very important.

In the case of Jallikattu, it was not presented properly by the state.

See, everything can be regulated. Even Jallikattu can be regulated with medical supervisory bodies present at the event, etc.

You should allow the race to happen under supervision and not ban it completely.

When it is regulated, there will not be any doubt in the minds of people on how these animals are treated before and while Jallikattu.

This is what the Tamil Nadu government failed to do; they should have fought for regulation.

People have been feeling angry over so many issues, including the inefficiency of the state government, and the Centre's demonetisation drive.

But when the cultural fabric of Tamil Nadu was questioned, the anger came out spontaneously.

When politicians and film stars went to Marina beach to speak, they were driven away by the protestors...

Yes, they didn't want anyone to interfere or hijack the protest.

Eventually, students have to go back to college and people to their offices... Do you think the protest will slowly fizzle out?

Certainly. People will go back to their lives, but they will not forget anything.

They will definitely come back... That is what the central and the state governments should understand.

This is just a warning for them.

Photograph: Kamal Singh/PTI Photo

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