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Vinod V K
Vinod V K

OPINION

Misplaced priority - An open letter to Jallikattu protesters

India Bull Taming Sport Jallikattu protest is a classic example of how society is ruled by emotions rather than reason | AP

Dear Tamil folks,

Congratulations on successfully holding a campaign to lift the ban on Jallikattu; you brought the house down and proved in no uncertain terms that in a democracy the ultimate power lies with the people.

However, it is beyond my understanding how this traditional bull-taming sport, a leftover of the agrarian civilisation, has become the top priority of our youth, especially when the state reels under a number of other grave social evils. And, by any stretch of imagination, I fail to grasp what makes Jallikattu the final word of Tamil culture and pride that you jumped at the throats of those who expressed reservations.

So, when you say 'Don't mess with our culture', I wonder what that 'culture' is. Considering the few decades of the history of Tamil Nadu in post-independent India, I dare to argue that the state is notorious for cases of caste violence, honour killings and child marriages. Still these issues fail to spark off even a ripple of protests among our neo-liberal urban youth. Having been driven by emotion and symbolism, you failed to keep your wits about you and let the hysteria sweep you along.

Are you aware of the fact that over 60,000 girl children below the age of 15 are married in Tamil Nadu? The metropolitan Chennai, which you chose to make the epicentre of your Jallikattu protests, tops in the number of child marriages in the state. I wonder whether you have ever bothered to hold a candle light vigil for these girls who have been denied their childhood? Do you know the fact that the practice of child marriage is rampant in all the Jallikattu strongholds—Coimbatore, Madurai, Tirunelveli and Tirupur?

When you talk of Tamil culture and pride, have you ever taken a blind bit of notice that over 80 people have been brutally murdered in Tamil Nadu during the last four years just for falling in love with somebody out of their caste, and an equal or more number of people, especially girls, were forced to commit suicide after facing humiliation? Not even a single such case has ended in conviction because family members are involved in the crime. Why didn't these facts make your blood run cold? When our leaders publicly felicitate criminals and advocate 'honour' killings, what pride does it bring to our culture?

Have you forgotten the tragic love story of Ilavarasan and Divya? Why were you not bothered about the Tamil pride when his body was found on a railway track in Dharmapuri in 2012? Did any of our celebrities sit on a fast when over 200 huts of dalit families were torched by dominant upper caste people? They again chose to remain in their element when another dalit colony was attacked in Seshadripuram and over 80 families were forced to flee.

If you had raised your voice at least with half of the spirit that you showed for Jallikattu, Gokulraj's body would not have been found on a rail track near Tiruchengode. Dalit youth Sankar would not have been murdered in Tirupur. What were their crimes? Gokulraj talked to a woman from the dominant Gounder caste; Sankar married a high-caste Hindu girl. How are you going to erase these blots on the culture that you boast of now?

Tamil Nadu is second among the states in the number of atrocities against people belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe. Have you ever thought why the prominent Dravidian parties always sought to draw a veil over these issues? Barring mild clamour from some Left leaders, these issues have never sparked off a public outcry in the state where caste matters even in today's digital age.

The ritzy Kollywood has always sought to ride the popular feeling. Our iconic celebrities bit their tongue and remained mute when children were divided on the basis of caste in Tirunelveli schools, when they were beaten up inside classrooms and when scores of students were forced to withdraw from school out of fear. If the ban on Jallikattu cut you to the quick, how did these issues not come in your cup of tea?

I fail to understand how holding the bull-taming event will bring you more cultural pride than giving justice to Perumal Murugan, who faced abuse, threat and humiliation for his work 'Madhorubagan'. Was it not a tight slap on our culture when he declared “Author Perumal Murugan has died”?

What prevented you to come to Marina with candle lights when a woman techie was brutally killed by his stalker at Nungambakkam railway station? As you chose to keep quiet, stalking continued unabated, with another girl attacked at Pallavaram, a student killed inside the classroom in Trichy and a teacher hacked to death inside a church in Thoothukudi.

If these dark social realities didn't prompt you for a mass movement, the Jallikattu campaign would never bring a feather in your cultural cap. The protests at the Marina were nothing more than an inflated version of a flash mob. It is a classic example of how society is ruled by emotions rather than reason.

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