Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu: pride & politics
With Assembly polls round the corner in Tamil Nadu, the Pongal festival and Jallikattu, the traditional bull-taming sport, have caught the attention of political parties.
What is Jallikattu?
The bull-taming sport is popular in Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai and Dindigul districts known as the Jallikattu belt.
Jallikattu is celebrated in the second week of January, during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal.
A tradition over 2,000 years old, Jallikattu is a competitive sport as well as an event to honour bull owners who rear them for mating.
It is a violent sport in which contestants try to tame a bull for a prize; if they fail, the bull owner wins the prize.
Why is Jallikattu important in Tamil culture?
Jallikattu is considered a traditional way for the peasant community to preserve their pure-breed native bulls.
At a time when cattle breeding is often an artificial process, conservationists and peasants argue that Jallikattu is a way to protect these male animals which are otherwise used only for meat if not for ploughing.
Why has Jallikattu been the subject of legal battles?
Jallikattu first came under legal scrutiny in 2007 when the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights group PETA moved petitions in the Supreme Court against Jallikattu as well as bullock cart races.
The Tamil Nadu government, however, worked its way out of the ban by passing a law in 2009, which was signed by the Governor.
In 2011, the UPA regime at the Centre added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition is prohibited.
In May 2014, the Supreme Court banned the bull-taming sport, ruling on a petition that cited the 2011 notification.
So, is it legal or banned now?
In January 2017, massive protests erupted across Tamil Nadu against the ban, with Chennai city witnessing a 15-day-long Jallikattu uprising.
The same year, the Tamil Nadu government released an ordinance amending the central Act and allowing Jallikattu in the state; this was later ratified by the President.
PETA challenged the state move, arguing it was unconstitutional (Article 29(1)).
In 2018, the Supreme Court referred the Jallikattu case to a Constitution Bench, where it is pending now.
What Russia’s exit means for the Open Skies Treaty?
Russia has announced that it is leaving the Open Skies Treaty (OST).
What is the Open Skies Treaty?
It is an accord between over 30 countries that allows participants to fly unarmed reconnaissance flights over any part of their fellow member states.
First proposed in 1955 by former US President Dwight Eisenhower as a means to deescalate tensions during the Cold War, the landmark treaty was eventually signed in 1992 between NATO members and former Warsaw Pact countries following the demise of the Soviet Union.
It went into effect in 2002 and had signatories, including key players US and Russia, along with one non-ratifying member (Kyrgyzstan).
Aims of the OST:
Build confidence among members through mutual openness, thus reducing the chances of accidental war.
Features of the treaty:
Under the treaty, a member state can “spy” on any part of the host nation, with the latter’s consent.
A country can undertake aerial imaging over the host state after giving notice 72 hours before, and sharing its exact flight path 24 hours before.
The information gathered, such as on troop movements, military exercises and missile deployments, has to be shared with all member states.
Only approved imaging equipment is permitted on the surveillance flights, and officials from the host state can also stay on board throughout the planned journey.
Why did Russia leave after the US?
In May 2020, the Trump administration announced its intention of withdrawing from the OST, accusing Russia of “flagrantly and continuously violating the Treaty in various ways for years”.
Now, Russia has attributed this move to “the lack of progress in removing obstacles for the continued functioning of the agreement.”
Moscow is worried that the U.S.’s withdrawal restricts its access to American territory, while Washington’s allies in Europe can continue flyovers over Russian territory to collect intelligence that could be handed to the U.S.
Experts now worry about the fate of the much larger US-Russia ‘New START’ nuclear arms control agreement, which is slated to expire on February 5, 2021 while US President-elect Joe Biden has spoken in favour of preserving the treaty.
U.K. urges China to grant UN access to Xinjiang
Britain’s government has pressed China to allow UN rights inspectors to visit Xinjiang after raising new allegations of “appalling” human rights abuses against the Uighur minority people.
UK recently introduced import controls on firms that may have sourced goods from the region in northwest China using forced labour from the mainly Muslim Uighur community.
There have been reports of “slave labour, forced sterilisation, appalling human rights abuses in the region”.
Who are Uighurs?
A Muslim minority community concentrated in China’s northwestern Xinjiang province.
They claim closer ethnic ties to Turkey and other central Asian countries than to China.
Why is China targeting the Uighurs?
Xinjiang is technically an autonomous region within China — its largest region, rich in minerals, and sharing borders with eight countries, including India, Pakistan, Russia and Afghanistan.
Over the past few decades, as economic prosperity has come to Xinjiang, it has brought with it in large numbers the majority Han Chinese, who have cornered the better jobs, and left the Uighurs feeling their livelihoods and identity were under threat.
This led to sporadic violence, in 2009 culminating in a riot that killed 200 people, mostly Han Chinese, in the region’s capital Urumqi. And many other violent incidents have taken place since then.
Beijing also says Uighur groups want to establish an independent state and, because of the Uighurs’ cultural ties to their neighbours, leaders fear that elements in places like Pakistan may back a separatist movement in Xinjiang.
Therefore, the Chinese policy seems to have been one of treating the entire community as suspect, and launching a systematic project to chip away at every marker of a distinct Uighur identity.
The United Kingdom has invited India, Australia and South Korea to attend the G7 summit that is scheduled to be held in June as “guest countries”.
What is G7?
The G7, originally G8, was set up in 1975 as an informal forum bringing together the leaders of the world’s leading industrial nations.
The summit gathers leaders from the European Union (EU) and the following countries: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.
The major purpose of the G-7 is to discuss and deliberate on international economic issues. It sometimes acts in concert to help resolve other global problems, with a special focus on economic issues.
How did G7 become G8?
Russia was formally inducted as a member in the group in 1998, which led G7 to become G8.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s condemnable act of moving Russian troops into eastern Ukraine and conquering Crimea in 2014 drew heavy criticism from the other G8 nations.
The other nations of the group decided to suspend Russia from the G8 as a consequence of its actions and the group became G7 again in 2014.