Over the last two days, parallels are being drawn in some quarters between the ongoing spontaneous agitation by thousands of people demanding the lifting of the ban on jallikattu and the anti-Hindi agitation of the 1960s. However, there is little agreement over such comparison.
Asked whether he was seeing any parallel between the pro-jallikattu protests and the anti-Hindi agitation, DMK’s principal secretary Duraimurugan, who actively participated in the latter as a student in the 1960s, pointed out that the objectives were different. “The anti-Hindi agitation was against suppression of Tamil and the protest in support of jallikattu highlights students’ anger against the onslaught on their culture. Anti-Hindi agitation had an intellectual agenda while pro-jallikattu protests are emotional,” he said.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko, who too had participated in the linguistic agitation, felt the students’ protest in support of the ancient sport could take a turn like the anti-Hindi agitations. The spontaneous pouring of students into the streets, who remained indifferent to issues such as suicide of farmers in the delta region, demonetisation, National Entrance and Eligibility Test (NEET), Joint Entrance Examination and the new education policy, is unprecedented. Mr. Vaiko demanded that the Centre promulgate an ordinance to conduct the jallikattu.
Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) general secretary Ravikumar was of the view that the ongoing protests had transformed jallikattu, a sport, into a cultural identity of the entire Tamil society. “There is nothing new in a cultural issue taking precedence over serious economic issues such as drought and suicide of farmers. The State had seen political leaders who fought for the cause of distribution of land and decent wage for agricultural workers being sidelined and consigned to margins. On the other hand, those who spoke against imposition of Hindu became rulers of the State,” he said.
Just because jallikattu remained a cultural capital in the hands of a section of society, it need not be opposed. “At the same time, it cannot be extended as cultural capital to all sections as it will lead to cultural hegemony of a particular section,” he contended.
That jallikattu has become a cultural identity of Tamils is explained by the fact that even those who have difference of opinion about the sport have extended their support to it. “It has culturally unified the people of Tamil Nadu,” pointed out Professor Ramu Manivannan of the Department of Politics and Public Administration of the University of Madras.
He, however, clarified that it was not appropriate to compare the pro-jallikattu protests with the anti-Hindi agitations. The latter, he said, had had two decades of fermentation. “It had a clear agenda, leadership and guidance. What is happening today is not just a protest in support of jallikattu, but a culmination and manifestation of anger against the Centre and the State government,” he explained.
Mr. Manivannan said people of Tamil Nadu had come to a conclusion that their State had been neglected over the years in the name of defining national unity. “Whether it is demonetisation or attack on Tamil fishermen or sharing of Cauvery water or new education policy or ceding of Katchatheevu, people here feel that they have been taken for granted,” he said.
While Mr. Ravikumar pointed out that the ban on jallikattu had actually increased its value in the society, Mr. Manivannan said the government should formulate clear rules and regulation for the conduct of jallikattu instead of banning it.