A socially explosive issue which has divided Tamil Nadu from the rest of India threatens to spill over into Singapore. The people of Tamil Nadu are upset that the Supreme Court of India has revoked an exemption to the Jallikattu practice just before the 2016 Pongal festival and have taken to the streets to challenge the ban.
During Jallikattu, bulls are released from pens, with participants challenged to hold on to the animal’s hump for as long as possible in an attempt to bring the bucking animal to a halt. In Tamil Nadu, bulls are bred specifically for this event. The untameable bulls from the event are deemed to have better genes and are used especially for breeding, while the tamed ones are used for domestic activities and agriculture.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned Jallikattu after the Animal Welfare Board of India citing extensive evidence of torture and cruelty to the animals petitioned it. The reinstatement of the ban just before Pongal effectively reinforced the earlier Court ruling, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.
Political analysts from India have said that the anger expressed at the ban by the people of Tamil Nadu was reminiscent of the anti-central-government sentiments in the late 1960s after Hindi was made the official language of the country.
With the political parties from Tamil Nadu supporting pro-Jallikattu groups, the protests have intensified over the past few days, posing a big challenge for Narendra Modi’s Central government of India.
The protests on the ban have also transcended the physical boundary of Tamil Nadu and is being observed in other countries where there is a huge presence of the Tamil community.
For example, the Australian Tamil community have also added their voice to the dissent by demonstrating in Sydney and Melbourne. And thousands have signed a petition urging Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to save the practice.
Now the protests seem to be coming to Singapore as well.
The following message urging the Tamils in Singapore to assemble in Sembawang Park to express their displeasure with the Jallikattu ban in India is being virulently shared in social media.
It is unclear who the organiser of the event is, but the “Tamil people living in Singapore” are invited to attend a “friendly gathering to show our support to Jallikattu”.
In Singapore, only Hong Lim Park has been designated as the place to hold such protests and demonstrations, and even this venue is off-limits to foreigners. Organising or participating in a public assembly without a police permit in Singapore is illegal and constitutes an offence under the Public Order Act.
The Singapore Police had previously said that “foreigners working or living in Singapore have to abide by (local) laws and should not import issues from their own countries into Singapore which can disturb public order.” The Singapore authorities have also dealt with organisers of such protests firmly in the past.