India Jallikattu bullfighting events resume in Tamil Nadu

Chennai protest in support of jallikattu (21 January 2017) Image copyright EPA
Image caption Thousands of people Tamil Nadu have demonstrated in support of jallikattu in recent days

Bullfighting events recently given temporary permission to go ahead by the Indian government have taken place across the state of Tamil Nadu.

The events attracted huge crowds, many demanding that the spectacle, known as jallikattu, must be legalised permanently and not just provisionally.

Subduing angry bulls has long been practised in the state as a sport and is a key part of the harvest festival.

The Indian Supreme Court banned it in 2014, ruling it was cruel to animals.

But the central government on Saturday temporarily cleared the way for bullfighting events to resume in Tamil Nadu, bypassing a Supreme Court ban.

It did so by issuing a six-month executive order that removed bulls from the purview of the law. Animals rights groups are imminently expected to appeal against the move.

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Image caption The protesters insist that jallikattu is an important part of Tamil culture
Image copyright EPA
Image caption The protesters stopped trains in support of their campaign for jallikattu to be legalised permanently

Various activities involving bulls have taken place throughout the weekend, with two people reported to have been killed while holding on to a bucking bull on Sunday.

Events took place throughout the state including the state capital Chennai (Madras), where protesters on Marina beach demanded the full scale legalisation of jallikattu.

The protesters - surrounded by large numbers of police - have threatened to disrupt India's Republic Day celebrations on Thursday if their demands are not met, NDTV reported.

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Most ministers in the state government, led by Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, support jallikattu, with many holding inauguration events over the weekend. It is seen as an important part of Tamil culture.

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Image caption The protests in support of jallikattu have attracted huge crowds in Chennai in recent days
Image copyright AFP
Image caption The protests are also calling for western animal charities opposed to animal cruelty - such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - to be banned in India

Mr Panneerselvam has promised to legalise it as soon as the state's assembly reconvenes on Monday.

Animal rights activists say the spectacle causes unnecessary stress to the bulls because they sometimes have chilli powder rubbed into their eyes, or have their tails broken, before they are released into a crowd and forced to fend off people trying to ride them.

On Thursday Mr Paneerselvam sought the help of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to tackle the crisis, following which the home ministry supported the state government's proposal for the executive order.

A government official in Tamil Nadu said the executive order was prepared with a view to ensuring "survival and well-being of the native breed of bulls and preserving cultural traditions".

In the past few days, a number of Tamil celebrities have given support to the protesters, including five-time world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand and Oscar-winning music composer A R Rahman.

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