Nearly 900 Tamil Americans protest in Washington against India’s Jallikkatu ban

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Protesters sign a petition seeking a reversal of two-year-old ban against the traditional bull wrestling sport.

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Protesters in Washington, DC, hold banners urging the Government of India reverse a ban of the popular Tamil bull festival of Jallikattu. Photo credit: Aranganathan & Arun Prasath

Braving a slight drizzle and gloomy weather, nearly 900 Tamil Americans gathered in front of the Embassy of India in Washington, DC, on Sunday to denounce a ban on the traditional bull wrestling festival of Jallikattu, imposed by the Supreme Court of India.

The ban on the sport has been in place since 2014. But protests against the ban gained momentum in Tamil Nadu in the past two weeks. Thousands have been protesting at the iconic Marina Beach in Chennai since January 8, and the protests have spread to other parts of the state as well.

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In Washington, the protesters — who came from Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, besides the District of Columbia — began gathering at 10.15 am.

Nalini Britto, one of the organizers, said more than 800 people have signed a petition urging the Government of India to lift the ban. The petition will be submitted to the Indian Ambassador to the United States Navtej Sarna on Monday, she added.

“We feel like we have also taken part of the protest in Chennai,” said Ramya Arangs, another organizer. The Gaithersburg, MD, resident, an immigrant from Chennai, she felt gratifying that she was able to join the protests and lend her voice to a cause that she truly believes in.

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India’s Supreme Court bans Jallikkattu (January 12, 2016)

“There were elderly people and young children,” said Britto, a resident of Silver Spring, MD. “One of them drove for three hours to be here.”

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Jallikattu is usually part of the four-day Pongal festival – which includes Mattu Pongal, the day when a variety of native bulls, including the locally bread Kangayam breed (a good indigenous draught breed) has its horns painted in festive colors.

Pongal falls in January, and that was the immediate trigger for the protests.

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Protesters gathered in front of the Embassy of India demanding a reversal of ban against the Tamil bull wrestling festival of Jallikattu. Photo credit: Aranganathan & Arun Prasath
Among the protesters were a number of children. Photo credit: Aranganathan & Arun Prasath