Jallikattu bullfighting set to resume in Tamil Nadu

Indian students hold placards against the animal rights organisation PETA during a demonstration against the ban on the Jallikattu bull taming ritual and call for a ban on animal rights organisation PETA, in Chennai on January 21, 2017. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Thousands of people have been protesting about the ban in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu

The Indian federal government has cleared the way for bullfighting events to resume in southern Tamil Nadu state, bypassing a Supreme Court ban.

Subduing angry bulls has long been practised in the state as a sport and a ritual that forms part of the local harvest festival.

The Indian Supreme Court banned the sport in 2014, under an Indian law aimed at preventing cruelty to animals.

But an executive order has now taken bulls out of the law's purview.

The move comes after days of escalating tension in Tamil Nadu, with angry protesters insisting that the ban disrespected Tamil culture and should be overturned.

Tamil Nadu Governor Vidyasagar Rao has approved the executive order, allowing the tradition, known as "jallikattu", to resume on Sunday.

Why the protests may not be just about bulls

Native breeds 'threatened by ban'

On Thursday, Tamil Nadu chief minister, O Panneerselvam met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking his help to tackle the crisis.

Following Mr Modi's assurance, the federal home minister cleared the state government's proposal for the executive order.

A day later, the Supreme Court agreed to a federal government request to withhold judgment on whether to reverse its ban.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption In Jallikattu, men run with the bull and try to grab prizes attached to its horns

A government official in Tamil Nadu said the executive order was prepared with a view to ensuring "survival and well-being of the native breed of bulls and preserving cultural traditions".

In the last few days, a number of Tamil celebrities have lent support to the protesters.

They include five-time world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand and Oscar-winning music composer A R Rahman. Both have tweeted in support of the demonstrations.

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