Jallikattu: Komban the Bull, Tells You Something While Dying!


By: R. Veera Raghavan (Advocate, Chennai)

A five-year old ‘jallikattu’ bull, called Komban, was in the news a week ago.

Jallikattu is termed a sporting event in which numerous young men surround and go after a fleeing bull, for one of them to grab and hold on to its hump with both his arms till the animal crosses the finishing line, a distance of about 50 feet. At the event, unwilling bulls are pushed into the open ground through a barricaded narrow passage – one at a time, so each bull may either run away from the arms and clutches of tamers to reach the finishing line and be counted a winner, or be subdued by one winning tamer before that line.

When Komban the Bull was let into the jallikattu arena at Thennalur, Pudukottai district, tamers had assembled outside the bull’s gate through which the animal must emerge. They were eyeing the bull and readying to grab its hump soonest as the creature came out. Tamers had nearly blocked all space for a comfortable passage-out for the bull at the gate line. It had to fiercely butt through the tamers swarming at the gate. It frantically lunged forward at the gate line, but rammed a cut trunk of a coconut tree planted like a post outside the gate. Komban instantly dropped to the ground and died on the spot in a few minutes.

Let’s not imagine Komban could not sight a high post in front of it, the one which has the girth of an elephant’s leg. The animal was somewhat blinded and disoriented in fright and so it violently hit a huge obstacle. It was like a tormented human running like hell, dashing on a wall and ending his life. Since poor Komban had no voting right and no group-leaders to speak out for it, the horrible death of Komban did not trigger any politically sponsored protest or mourning in Tamil Nadu. The beleaguered bull was owned by a politician, Tamil Nadu’s health minister C. Vijaya Baskar.

If you have a heart, you would know that jallikattu is not a sport, as sport is understood. It is sheer trauma for the poor bull forced into the event in which it desperately looks to disappear from the scene. That is not a sport for the harassed bulls. Not really one for the tamers also – 66 of them were injured, and 33 rushed to hospitals from the jallikattu venue that saw Komban last.

A citizen cornered by corrupt government officials for bribes will be keen to run away from his plight if he can, and can’t imagine he plays a sport with those blackguards. But the fleecing officials may relish such engagement with the citizen as a sport. Now fix who’s who in a jallikattu.

The ultimate power of a bull against a human was seen, like before, during the four weeks prior to Komban’s final outing. A bull that had crossed the finishing line at a jallikattu held at Palamedu, Madurai district, was still not out of tension and discomfort.  In that state it gored a spectator, a 19-year old boy, waiting at the collection point for bulls that had finished their run, and the poor boy did not survive. At two jallikattu events held in Tiruchi district, the bulls in the arena landed fatal kicks on the chest of two tamers, one of them a teen, who were challenging the animals. These are also tragic ends, resulting from our vanity, ignorance and unconcern for the gentle and majestic bull.

Komban is the latest to tell us that our society remains insensitive, not just to the dangers ignorant bull tamers take on themselves but also to the trauma and risks inflicted on innocent bulls.

We know that a man is no match for a muscled bull in physical prowess. Though stronger, the animal does not harm strangers who do not tease or disturb it. Though weaker, the bull-tamer is foolish in going at it. He is lucky the bull seldom takes on its pursuing men, unlike a lion or tiger. Those wild animals will also avoid contact with humans and slink away, but if a man closely obstructs or chases them they will maul him. This is where the gentle bull differs. With a robust neck and a sturdy pair of horns it can severely bruise and displace the flesh and bones of the onrushing tamer, but still it wants to slip out of his reach and be left alone rather than hurt him. It gores and maims or kills a man when many men totally hinder its escape and heighten its agony.

When Komban lost its life in a jallikattu, its owner Vijaya Baskar said he had cared for the bull “as if it were a member of our family”. That was not much of a humanitarian sentiment as it seemed. He probably felt like a corporate which advertised itself on an expensive race car that blew up on a racing track. But Komban would have viewed Vijaya Baskar as a member of its family, hoping he would not send it towards danger and death. Who was kind and gentle to the other?

(This article was originally published HERE)

Copyright © R. Veera Raghavan 2018

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