Amidst a growing chorus from people in Tamil Nadu to allow 'jallikattu' during Pongal this year, the controversial and ancient Indian bull taming sport has a celebrity supporter who would very much like to see it back in vogue despite protests from animal rights groups.
Actor Kamal Haasan said on the sidelines of the India Today Conclave that if jallikattu is banned, biryani must also be.
He's said there a common misconception about the sport. "It's embracing the bull, not to be mistaken for a matador sport," he said.
"They (animal rights activists) must also ban biryani then. It's (jallikattu) is a part of our culture. I am one of the few actors who can boast that I have actually embraced a bull. I am a Tamilian, I love that sport, it doesn't kill a bull. In fact, if you hurt the bull, you are disbarred from the game."
Haasan's comments come amidst state-wide demonstrations against a ban on the 2000-year-old sport. The Tamil Nadu government has urged the Centre to consider promulgating an ordinance for "removing the legal impediments" to enable the conduct of the sport next week.
Chief Minister O Panneerselvam has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying "considering the groundswell of sentiment and support for the conduct of Jallikattu all over Tamil Nadu, this is an issue on which the government of India must act with maximum despatch."
"Given that Pongal festival, which holds great importance to the people of Tamil Nadu, is less than a week away and Jallikattu is an integral part of the Pongal festivities, considering the urgency of the issue, Government of India should consider promulgating an ordinance removing the legal impediments, enabling the conduct of Jallikattu during Pongal, 2017," he said in the letter.
The other demand was to "suitably amend Section 11(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by introducing a new clause 'f' in sub-section (3) of Section 11 specifically exempting Jallikattu in addition to other exemptions already provided in the Act," he said.
Political parties, including DMK, have been pressing the Centre and state government to take steps to hold the sport coinciding with Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival, this year. Panneerselvam told Modi that bulls meant for jallikattu are reared exclusively for the event and are embraced by able bodied youth during the sport.
"Bulls are not harmed or physically tortured during Jallikattu," he insisted.
"More people die of motor vehicle accidents," Haasan added.
Earlier in May 2014, the Supreme Court banned the practice of Jallikattu, citing animal welfare issues.
The Government of India later on 8 January, 2016, passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls cannot be used, effectively reversing the ban.
The Supreme Court, however, on 15 January, 2016, upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests across Tamil Nadu.
(With inputs from ANI and PTI)