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Kambala and Jallikattu: A Relation Reargued

Kambala and Jallikattu

Amidst a lot of criticism and controversies, the Supreme Court ripped Tamil Nadu’s attempt to bring back Jallikattu by bypassing its own judgment of 2014 which banned the sport involving bulls on grounds of it as constituting extreme animal cruelty which involved young men wrestling with bulls under the veil of celebration of the harvest. In this sport before the bulls are released in the crowd they are prodded with sharp sticks and then tortured by pouring chilli powder on the animal. In Animal Welfare Board of India v A Nagaraja[1], it was propounded that such rough or abusive handling of bulls is a compromise of animal welfare and instills fear by causing both physical and mental harm to the animal. The bullock cart race and such events per se violate Section 3, 11(1)(a), 21 and 22 of the PCA Act (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960). The Court also said that conservation of  “culture” should not be at the cost of inflicting unnecessary pain to the meek animals.
But recently the Union Ministry of Law and justice passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2017 which legalizes the traditional slush track buffalo race, Kambala. Previously, in November 2016 the sport was banned by the Karnataka High Court along with the bull cart race across the state on account of the Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgment on Jallikattu but following the mass protests by Kambala organizers, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2017 which permits the traditional buffalo race and bullock cart racing was passed. Also the Union Home Ministry directed the State Government to omit or modify the phrase “subject to such other conditions as may be prescribed” in Section 3(2) which empowered the state government to include more sports involving animals by the government notifications in future.
Jallikattu is derived from Salli and kattu referring to the coins that are tied to the bull’s horns which the participants try to retrieve. It has known to have been practiced since 400-100 BC i.e. the Tamil Classical period. Later, it became a symbol of bravery and valor. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization which portrays the practice is also preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. In this traditional sport, a bull of specific breed is released in the crowd of people who try to grab the bull’s back and attempt to bring it to a stop. This sport is practiced specifically in the states of Tamil Nadu on the occasion of Pongal celebrations.
On the other hand, Kambala is an annual Buffalo race in the regions constituting Tulu Nadu. This celebration of Kambala last for about 4 months beginning from November onwards. Apart from rural entertainment it is also a means to thank god for protecting their animals from disease.
The debate revolving Jallikattu started since 2004 when PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Animal Welfare Board challenged the sport as being inherently cruel as the animal should not be allowed to exhibit as performing animals. The sport was a demonstration of the valor of man and the distress, fear and pain of the animal. Thus, the court held that Bulls cannot be used as performing animals for Jallikattu and Bullock cart races, since they are not designed for such performances and are pack animals. Later in 2016, a review petition was filed by the Tamil Nadu government to lift the ban which was dismissed by the court which was then followed by violent protests claiming the sport to be a cultural aspect of the state invoking Article 29(1) of the Indian Constitution which permits the citizens to “conserve their culture”.
Moreover, the Kambala protests also owe their origin by the attempts of PETA which claimed animal cruelty which is perpetuated by the whipping of the animal during the race. These traditional sports were stayed by the High Court in view of the Hon’ble Supreme Court decision on Jallikattu. Later, the Karnataka Assembly passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017 which legalized Kambala.
Various grounds are looked before a sport is banned. The Prevention of Cruelty on Animals Act, 1960 is also such act which banned the sport of Jallikattu on various grounds. Starting with, Section 3 of the Act which describes the duty of the person who is having the charge of animals to prevent any unnecessary pain or sufferings to the animal which in case of Jallikattu was absent making the organizers of the sport also liable for their recklessness under the said act.
Section 11(1)(a) says that if a person beats, kicks, over-rides, tortures or otherwise treats any animal so as to subject it to unnecessary pain or suffering, or being the owner permits, any animal to be so treated; shall be punished. In Jallikattu, such practices are common whereas Kambala is simply a sport involving races in which no such extent of cruelty is done to the bullocks. Section 23 talks about the restriction on the exhibition and training of animals as a performing animal which again is infringed under the sport of Jallikattu.
The promulgation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 was approved by the President on July 2017. The question whether Kambala should also be banned like jallikattu can be traced by the treatment of animal during the sport. Jallikattu was banned not because it involved animals and their taming but because the animal are sometimes made to consume alcohols and chilli powder was also rubbed on them to provoke and incite them. They are not just subdued but their tails are twisted and even bitten in most painful manner among many other similar acts. Whereas Kambala is a bullock racing sport unlike jallikattu which involves bull taming and also special care is taken by the owners of these bullocks by feeding and maintaining them properly. Hence. Kambala is fairly away from the infliction of cruelty on animals which makes it distant to a doppelganger sport of jallikattu which tries to justify culture by inflicting pain to animals.

[1] Animal Welfare Board of India v A Nagaraja (2014) 7 SCC 547

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