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23 January 2017 Editorial


23 January 2017

In fruitless pursuit of permanence

The Tamil Nadu government may have had few political options but to go in for an ordinance to facilitate the conduct of jallikattu once the surge in popular sentiment in favour of the traditional bull-taming sport gathered an enormous, unstoppable momentum. The State amendment to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, seeks to exempt jallikattu from the purview of the law. With the  implacable mass movement demanding a legal solution to overcome the judicial ban on jallikattu on the one side, and related litigation pending in the Supreme Court on the other, there was little that the Union government could have done on its own. For the Centre to bring in an amendment would have incurred the wrath of the Supreme Court, which stayed a January 2016 notification and will rule on its validity soon. Instead, the Centre granted its consent to the State Governor promulgating the ordinance. However, just when it seemed that a legal solution has been found, there is another twist. The protests are continuing, as its spearheads demand a ‘permanent solution’. Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam’s plan to inaugurate the jallikattu event in Alanganallur did not fructify.

The protesters are obviously under the mistaken impression that an ordinance is ‘temporary’. They remain unmoved even after the State government clarified that it intends to replace it with a Bill when the Assembly convenes on January 23. But even a parliamentary Act is subject to judicial scrutiny. The ordinance has pleased neither side in the jallikattu vs. animal rights debate. The Centre’s nod may have ensured that the ordinance will not be opposed as being repugnant to a Central law, but other legal hurdles remain. The Supreme Court has declared that jallikattu is inherently cruel and contrary to the objectives of the PCA. Unless it recognises culture and tradition as valid grounds to permit events involving bulls, the exemption given to jallikattu may be invalidated. Meanwhile, the public uprising has gone beyond jallikattu, attained a critical mass as an assertion of Tamil identity and culture and metamorphosed into a protest against mainstream political parties. It is time the protesters took a step back and let the legislative and judicial institutions determine the future of jallikattu. It is also time for them to reassess the cruelty and the risks to life posed by the sport, and link any demand to its reintroduction with the strictest of regulations. Two people were tragically killed and over 120 injured in the jallikattu at Pudukottai on Sunday. A culture that legitimises such mindless and unnecessary death is not Tamil culture. In fact, it is no culture at all.

America’s era of anger

Despite the belligerence and rhetoric of his campaign, some had hoped that Donald Trump, in his inaugural address, would seek to heal the wounds created by a divisive campaign. But the 45th President of the U.S. trumped those expectations with a speech that was resonant of campaign rhetoric rather than one that should have been a vision statement for a united future under his leadership. Certain omissions in the speech were stark. The humility that American Presidents usually embrace in their first address was missing. So was the historical emphasis on American values. No word of thanks for the work of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Instead, Mr. Trump continued his attacks on the Washington establishment, vowing to end the “American carnage”, put “America First” in all policy decisions and eradicate “radical Islamic terror” from the “face of the earth”. These remarks, along with his first set of decisions in the White House, offer an indication of the priorities. Mr. Trump has already issued an executive order to roll back certain aspects of Obamacare, a health-care programme which the former President fought long and hard to get passed in Congress. Pages on LGBT rights, climate change and Obamacare are already removed from the White House website. The administration is also planning a missile defence system that could trigger a nuclear arms race. Put together, the Trump team is likely to pursue a hardline social conservative agenda buttressed by economic protectionism and passionate nationalism.

This poses a new set of challenges, for the U.S. and the rest of the world. First, American liberalism faces a major crisis. The hundreds of thousands of women who thronged several cities in the U.S. on Saturday to protest against him show how divided the country is. Second, if the world’s largest economy, the main pillar of the global economic order, turns protectionist, it would have far-reaching impact on other major economies. This means the current crisis in globalisation, which in a way helped Mr. Trump’s rise, is likely to deepen. Third, Mr. Trump’s foreign policy direction, especially his disdain towards multilateralism and unfriendly approach towards China, is confrontational. He has repeatedly said he is a deal-maker and will get the “best deals” for the U.S. But in international diplomacy, his business logic may not work. Finally, how Mr. Trump is going to meet the tall promises he has made to rally supporters, largely the anxious, angered, anti-establishment white working class. He has unleashed forces of extreme nationalism which many hoped belonged to a bygone era.

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