Two killed in Indian bull-wrestling festival

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Two people were gored to death Sunday in a bull-wrestling festival in southern India, a report said, a day after a ban on the controversial sport was overturned.
PHOTO: AFP

Two people were gored to death Sunday in a bull-wrestling festival in southern India, a report said, a day after a ban on the controversial sport was overturned.

Several towns and villages in the southern state of Tamil Nadu celebrated the popular Jallikattu festival on Sunday after week-long protests prompted authorities to approve an executive order lifting a Supreme Court ban on it.

But rampaging bulls sprinting through the village of Rapoosal in Pudukottai district fatally gored the two victims and injured 28 others, the Press Trust of India (PTI) cited local police as saying.

The Supreme Court last year outlawed Jallikattu after a plea by animal rights groups, which have long accused those taking part in the event — held annually across Tamil Nadu — of cruelty to the animals.

The state’s residents say Jallikattu is a crucial part of their culture and identity.

Growing tensions over the past week in the state capital Chennai and other cities led Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday to issue an executive order that this year’s event go ahead.

But thousands have continued to protest and refused to celebrate the festival, saying they want a permanent lifting of the court ban and not just a temporary order.

Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam assured Tamils that the executive order would be made into a law during his state’s next session of parliament starting Monday, according to PTI.

Panneerselvam was scheduled to launch the Jallikattu festival in the town of Alanganallur in Madurai district, where the sport is most popular. But he was forced to cancel his appearance due to strong protests.

In Jallikattu, young men struggle to grab the bulls by their sharpened horns or jump on their backs as the beasts, festooned with marigolds, charge down the road.

Unlike in Spanish bullfighting, young men compete to subdue them bare-handed.

But critics say organisers lace the bulls’ feed with liquor to make them less steady on their feet and throw chilli powder in their faces to send them into a sudden frenzy as they are released from a holding pen.

Organisers of the centuries-old festival insist the beasts suffer no harm and call the event an established part of Tamil culture.

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