#GoBackRahul was trending on Twitter on Thursday after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi landed in poll-bound Tamil Nadu to celebrate Pongal.
Gandhi, who was the chief guest at the Avaniyapuram Jallikattu event in Madurai, described the sport as "Tamil culture and history in action". Gandhi was accompanied by DMK Youth Wing Secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin, Tamil Nadu Congress leader KS Alagiri, Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy among others.
Speaking at the event, Gandhi further stated that he came to Madurai to "give a message to those people who think they can roughshod on Tamil people, who think they can push aside Tamil language and Tamil culture."
Why is Rahul Gandhi attending Jallikattu a big deal?
Gandhi's endorsement of Jallikattu marks a u-turn to the Congress' previous stand on the widely popular bull-taming sport.
The Congress government effectively banned the sport in 2011 when the then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh passed a notification banning the use of bulls as performing animals. Pointing out the Congress' u-turn on the issue, many social media users began trending the hashtag.
The order was challenged in the Supreme Court but the SC upheld the ban in a 2014 ruling stating that Jallikattu and other sports which use animals violate the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Ramesh welcomed the ruling and said, "I welcome the Supreme Court judgement. It will put an end to a barbaric practice."
However, ahead of the 2016 Tamil Nadu Assembly election, the Congress changed its stance on the issue. In its election manifesto, it proclaimed that Jallikattu would be legalised in the state.
The BJP had also tried to use the issue for the elections with the Narendra Modi-led central government passing a circular in January 2016 allowing Jallikattu to be held. However, the Supreme Court stayed the government order days later.
The Congress won just four seats in the 2016 election while the BJP won none.
The following year, many student-led protests erupted across Tamil Nadu against the SC's ruling. Under pressure, the Tamil Nadu assembly unanimously passed a bill to amend the PCA Act to make Jallikattu a permanent sport in rural Tamil Nadu.
Gandhi's portrayal of Jallikattu as a symbol of Tamil identity and pride which needs to be protected plays into the long-standing anti-Hindi imposition sentiment in the state. The Congress-DMK alliance is up against the ruling AIADMK government who have allied with the BJP.
Updated On: 2021-01-20T12:25:41+05:30