The jallikattu sport conducted in the Palamedu village in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu has run into controversy, and not because of something that happened in the arena, but off it.
Despite a Madras High Court direction and the order of the Madurai district collector, a bull raised by a Dalit hamlet was not allowed to participate in the world-renowned Palamedu Jallikattu.
Palamedu has a history of conducting Jallikattu for over a century, second only to Allanganallur.
The sport has been conducted there by the Palamedu Pothu Mahalinga Samy Madathu Committee, a panel comprising all communities in the village.
Before starting the event, it is customary that temple bulls in and around the Pallamedu village are unleashed from the “Vadivasal” — the place from where the bulls are untied into the arena.
“No man will tame or touch these temple bulls, and the customary belief is that unleashing the temple bulls will bring rain to the village. Each community will raise a bull on behalf of their deity,” said Malaisamy, a resident of Palamedu.
He added that the bull raised by the Paraiyar community, which is listed as Scheduled Caste (SC), was not allowed to participate in the customary unleashing event of the Jallikattu.
And this has been happening for a few years now, especially after the Jallikattu ban was revoked,
It may be noted that the community’s name, Paraiyar, is considered the root of the English word “pariah”, which is used to denote a social outcast.
Bull disallowed despite HC intervention
Nearly 30 SC families reside on Paraikkal Street in Palamedu, and the bull raised on behalf of their temple deity Paraikkal Karuppusamy was banned from participating in the Jallikattu by the organising committee.
Shocked over the village committee ban, a Dalit named C Santhanam approached the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court seeking direction to allow the bull to participate in the Jallikattu.
On 12 January, a division bench comprising Justices D Krishnakumar and R Vijayakumar passed orders to the district collector to consider the plea of the petitioner and to issue orders in accordance with the law.
Subsequently, on the very same day, Madurai District Collector S Aneesh Shekar called for a peace meeting between the village committee and the SC representatives.
He directed the Jallikattu organising committee to allow the Paraikkal Karuppusamy temple’s bull and passed orders in accordance with his decision.
On Monday morning, poojas were accordingly performed and the temple bull was taken for a procession to the Jallikattu arena.
S Amuthan, a spokesperson of Viduthalai Siruthai Katchi (VCK) Madurai district unit, said: “The organising committee, with the police by its side, refused to allow the bull into the arena. Even after copies of the High court order and the direction of the district collector were shown to them, they were particular in not allowing the bull as it was raised by SC people.”
He sought the intervention of the district collector and called for action against the persons who stopped the bull from participating in the event.
When South First contacted the functionaries of the Palamedu Pothu Mahalinga Samy Madathu Committee, they refused to comment on the issue.
However, they said that people from 22 communities reside in the Palamedu village, and members of 11 of them were given representation in the Jallikattu organising committee, while only six bulls were given customary respect before the Jallikattu commenced.
Then again, this is a tradition followed for several decades. The six temple bulls denote the six temples located in the immediate vicinity of the Jallikattu arena. Those bulls were given first respect in Jallikattu.
Meanwhile, during the hearing of the case, the high court directed the Palamedu Jallikattu organising committee not to mention the name of the caste or community while unleashing the respective temple bulls.
Despite that, the bulls were unleashed only after announcing the name of the communities that raised them.
And this happened in the presence of the Registration Department Minister P Moorthy and District Collector Aneesh Shekar.
The district collector was not available for comment on the issue when he was contacted.