The 2017 pro-jallikattu protests, also known as the pro-jallikattu movement, were leaderless apolitical youth protests which took place in January 2017 in large groups in several locations across the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Some sporadic smaller protests also took place across India as well as overseas. The chief motivation of the protest was against the Supreme Court‘s order to ban jallikattu (occasionally also known as sallikattu, eru taluval andmanju virattu), a traditional Tamil bull taming sport, which is held during Pongal, a harvest festival in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The sport is conducted annually on the second day of the Tamil month Thai. The sport was banned by the Supreme Court in a decision citing cruelty to animals based on a lawsuit filed by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which asserted that it violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA).
The first large protests occurred on 8 January 2017, when several groups, organised largely via social media, conducted a protest at the Marina beach in Chennai to revoke the ban on jallikattu which was imposed in 2014. These groups also demanded that PETA be banned from India. The protests soon gained momentum and spread all over Tamil Nadu. After several days of protests, jallikattu was finally legalised locally on 23 January when the Government of Tamil Nadu passed a bill to amend the PCA Act. As the legalisation is not Indian federal law, but rather state law, there is concern from Indian legal experts that jallikattu could be banned once again by the Supreme Court.
The largely peaceful nature of the protests received praise from all over the country and inspired the legalisation movements of several other Indian states’ traditional outlawed celebrations. Despite violence on 23 January, this perception continued after the Tamil Nadu Police reported that the violence was caused by “anti-social elements” co-opting the protest, and not the student protesters themselves.[vague] The movement has been described as a symbol for Tamil pride and has largely been compared to the anti-Hindi agitations of Tamil Nadu and dubbed by many as ‘Thai Puratchi’.
Sporadic demonstrations began on 4 January, but mass protests did not begin until two weeks later.
On 16 January 2017, villagers of Alanganallur protested at Alanganallur ‘Vaadi vaasal‘ – The Arena, the place known for the jallikattu sport – on that date, the sport was also practiced in defiance of the ban. After a day long protest, police arrested the protesters numbering around 200 in Madurai. On 17 January 2017, In support of the arrested, Students gathered in Marina Beach. This day incidentally coincided with the birth centenary of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G.Ramachadran. The crowds started swelling for the night and few hundred spent their night in beach and the crowds continued to gather strength throughout the next day. The protest erupted around the state including Salem, Erode, Coimbatore, Nagercoil, Thiruchrapalli, Pudhuchery. On 19 January, many volunteer groups and individuals once again gathered at the Marina beach for overnight protests. deputy Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O.Paneerselvam met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and pushed for an ordinance. With no sign of protests relenting the centre suggested ordinance by Tamil Nadu Government. On 20 January, The draft ordinance was approved by Home, Environmental and Cultural Ministry.
On 20 January, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu announced that a law has been drafted and sent to the Central Government, stating, “There are full chances that jallikattu will be organised within 1–2 days.” The Hindustan Times reported that the Centre approved the bill without recommending any changes, and that all that remains now is for it to be signed by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee. On this day the Marina beach Witnessed around 20 lakh protesters on peaceful Occupy Marina protest alone with lacs thronging various cities of state.. The day witnessed a virtual shutdown in the state as most organization downed their shutters expressing solidarity for the cause. The Opposition party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) staged Rail Roko in district headquarters of the state.
On 21 January, the protests still continue demanding a permanent solution. Some politicians of the opposition parties started fasting as a sign of protest. The State Government promulgated the ordinance and announced that it would conduct the event the next day. However the protesters refused to budge, as they believe the ordinance has very weak legal grounds and could be overturned in much the same way as the Supreme Court overturned the 2009 ordinance.
On 22 January, the government tried to conduct the sport despite the opposition from the local people in Alanganallur and other parts of Tamil Nadu who demanded a permanent resolution which can ensure jallikattu for generations to come. The protesters had successfully blocked the sport from being conducted as Government festival. However a jallikattu event was organised and held at Pudukottai without proper safety measures on a very short notice and was inaugurated by the government minister, which eventually killed two people and many were left injured.
On 23 January, with protesters refusing to budge, police began early morning forceful evictions, moving people by hand and also employing batons. Protesters at the marina threatened to venture into the sea, but eventually most protesters were removed and access to the protest site was cut off. The evictions led to further protesters and threaten to boycott the upcoming Republic Day celebrations in Chennai beach.[where?] The entire city came to standstill with protesters blocking major roads and incidents of stone pelting torching of vehicles, police stations and petrol bombs were thrown whose identity remain unknown. There have also been reports of police involving in burning of autos and vehicles. The videos of cop setting fire on vehicles and involving in arson have been going viral in social media. The initial organizers of protests called for calm and few including actors condemned the violence and the subsequent crackdown. At the end of day most of protests were either withdrawn evacuated or forcefully at all places including at Marina Beach, Madurai, Salem, Erode and Coimbatore and normalcy started to be restored.
On 24 January, according to the Times of India, the majority of student protestors in Chennai decided to call off their protest after a dialogue with police and a district court judge, viewing the Tamil Nadu ordinance and planned law as a victory, but promised to restart it if there was no permanent solution for jallikattu by 1 February.
The legal situation surrounding jallikattu is as yet not clearly resolved. While the Tamil Nadu government has claimed that its draft ordinance is a “permanent solution”, many jallikattu supporters view it as merely being a “stop gap measure”. As ordinances only last for six months, the Tamil Nadu Assembly plans to make the ordinance into state law “immediately”. Some, however such as Ministry of External Affairs cabinet minister Salman Khurshid, have stated that the matter will only be truly resolved if the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is amended as local ordinances and state laws cannot trump Indian federal law. According to The Hindu, many other Indian legal experts agreed with Khurshid’s view, as federal laws such as the PCA are always more powerful than state laws, and in that respect the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 is not much different from the 2009 one. On 24 January, in light of the new Tamil Nadu legislation, the Centre withdrew its notification allowing the sport; this means that any new legal challenges will be directed against the new legislation. For its part, PETA India has said that it will “study” the new ordinance, and has not ruled out a challenge to the new law on the same grounds as it challenged the 2009 law. On 25 January, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) restarted the legal process by formally challenging the new law before the Supreme Court, but it withdrew the petition the next day. According to the AWBI’s acting chairperson, AWBI does not plan to re-file the petition, but he claimed no knowledge of what other organizations, such as PETA, may do.
On 6 July 2017, PETA India released a YouTube video showing the results of their investigation of five Jallikattu events which took place across Tamil Nadu in February 2017. According to PETA, their investigation showed abuse of the animals during the February events, including the tails of bulls being bitten and twisted, collapsed bulls being pulled by ropes attached to their noses, and bulls having their tailbones purposefully broken. In an interview with The Hindu, organisers of the events denied the claims of PETA. On 7 July 2017, PETA filed a petition with the Supreme Court of India seeking a renewed ban on Jallikattu via the invalidation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 as unconstitutional.
On 2 February 2018, the Supreme Court of India accepted PETA’s petition, referring the case to its constitution bench.