Sunday 18 November 2018

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Bull owners furious over court ban on dhirio

 

The landmark judgement of the Panaji bench of Mumbai high court, banning the traditional bull fights, known popularly as dhirio, has shocked over five lakh dhirio lovers and around 2000 families directly or indirectly dependent on it, spread in three coastal talukas of Bardez, Tiswadi and Salcete in Goa.

The bull owners are furious. The dhirio lovers are in anguish. The politicians are in a soup. The only people perhaps seen jubilant are the activists belonging to the People for Animals (PFA) and Norma Alvares, the PFA's lawyer activist, who had filed the petition.

"I am very happy. The court understood our plea in spirit", says Alvares. She is more happy because the high court has prohibited not only dhirio "but all other fights of like nature involving animals including birds which can cause injury to the animals".

It appears that the judgement will have far more repercussions all over the country. The cock fights is a common phenomena in the village festivals in the countryside. Even cultural city like Pune proudly organises bullock cart race during Pune Festival, which has presently come under fire due to similar kind of reasons.

Dhirio was a traditional "sport", which used to begin in August every year, during the harvest season. Every Sunday coinciding with the village feast had to conclude with dhirio in the evening. Nourishing fighting bulls, spending over Rs 100 per day, was a matter of prestige in the village. Betting over the winning bull or a buffalo was a kind of enjoyment for the wealthies while merely watching the fight was an enjoyment for everybody - from a kid to the oldies.

Judging the popularity, it slowly took a commercial shape. Margao, the South Goa's district town, became the centre of it, holding its shows every weekend. The crowd never dropped below 3000, may it be any Saturday or Sunday of the "season". The underworld intellectuals combined godgodo, a popular way of gambling, with it while the police was taken on their pay roll.

But it all came to an end when the high court, responding to the PFA's petition, stayed the traditional bull fights from October onwards. The immediate concern was death of a person at dhirio held on September 17, when a fighter bull pushed through the crowd. Mahatma Gandhi too came for PFA's rescue, as the organisers made a "mistake" of organising the season's mega event - a fight between two champion bulls - on October 2 - the Gandhi Jayanti Day.

As the amount spent on nourishing fighter bulls was going waste, attempts were made to organise dhirio during some village feasts. But with the high court directive, the police had suddenly become over-protective about the law - the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1968. The bull owners had to then patiently wait for the court hearing to get over.

"Well, we do respect the judiciary. But the judgement has ruined our lives. How will we live now and what will our bulls do", asks Simon Caido, who was made president of the All Goa Bull and Buffalo Owners Association, to intervene into the petition. They are now also planning to approach the Supreme Court, but as a last resort to keep dhirio alive.

The first one they tried was to defy the ban and hold the bull fights, to celebrate Christmas on December 25. The decision was taken at a general body meeting attended by over 500 bull owners. But the police were in a mood to fight human dhirio, and the show culminated into a morcha to the state industries minister Luizinho Faleiro, who claims to be the leader of Salcete.

The bull owners now claim that they held dhirio on the same day, but in a coastal village of Utorda, defying the ban imposed by the court. "We won't stop at this. The next step would be to organise dhirio on the same day at the same time in all the villages of three talukas. Let's see what the police does", says Anacleto Viegas, the activist lawyer representing the bull owners.

They are equally furious with Adv Norma Alvares. The plan is to embarrass her by leaving at least 500 fighter bulls to her house, after holding a rally in Panaji. "In a given situation, we can't afford to look after our bulls. Instead of selling them to a butcher, we would prefer Alvares to look after them. Let's us see whether she loves the animals more than us", says Caido.

"I have no plans to look after them", says Alvares. She fully sympathises with the agony the bull owners are going through due to the judgement, but solely blames the government for it. As she argues it, the PFA had brought the illegality to the notice of the government over a year ago and demanded to stop it. "The government could have taken it up in a phased manner. But it didn't bother and we were left with no recourse but to approach the court", she adds.

South Goa MP Churchill Alemao, political saviour of the bulls owners, also blames the state government, but for different reasons. His demand is to amend the central act, in the state Assembly. "Who says the state government has no powers ? Make me the chief minister. I will do it in one night", he claims.

To make it possible, be brought union law minister Ramakant Khalap and state e industries minister Faleiro together. But after the meeting, both the leaders were seen throwing the ball in each other's court. "It may be the central act, but falls into the concurrent list. The state may have powers to amend it", says Khalap. "I tried to do it in case of some labour laws, which fall in the concurrent list. But the centre denies us permission", claims Faleiro.

"These politicians can allow casinos, which is a social evil, by going against the spirit of stopping gambling and by amending the Goa Public Gambling (Prevention) Act. But they can't find a way out for our living and keep the traditional sport of the land alive", comments Caido in disgust.

But politicians, probably fearing its vote bank, seem to be serious in finding a way out for it, before the situation goes out of control. But Alvares, also a noted women's activist, looks at it with a totally different angle, without any regrets for what she has done.

"The 19th century witnessed the slaves getting liberated from human exploitation. The 20th century began a process of liberating women from human exploitation. Let the 21st century be the beginning of liberating the animals from any kind of human exploitation".

THE LANDMARK JUDGEMENT


Inciting any animal to fight any other animal with a view to providing entertainment or organising, using or acting in the management of, any place for animal fighting or for the purpose of the baiting any animal or permitting or offering any place to be so used and causing cruelty of other nature to the animals is clearly prohibited by section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1968...

...During the process of such bull fights, animals get insane and injured and can also end up in inflicting injuries to the human beings and at times result in death of a person. These bull fights, though initially were organised as mere fun, is now being associated with gambling and betting. It has become a commercial business at the cost of cruelty to the animals as well as occasionally to the human beings...

...The facts brought on record also show that these bull fights are not only blessed by the politicians but by the police officers of the rank of DySP...There appears to be either lack of courage on wilful negligence on the part of the respondents (state government, animal husbandry department and the police) to implement the provisions of the said act... The respondents cannot shirk their responsibilities to prevent the cruelty to the animals...It is the paramount duty of the respondents to take preventive action avoid such bull fights...

...The contention of the bull owners that no cruelty is involved in such bull fights and it is a sheer game of strength of bulls is devoid of substance... Conducting bull fights by using barricades around the arena will not solve the problem. It will neither avoid injuries and cruelty to the bulls nor such barricades may be sufficient in a given situation to prevent a bull rushing towards the crowd of spectators... Financial loss to the bull owners cannot be a justification to the omission on the part of the respondents to implement the provisions of the said act...

...It is, therefore, necessary to issue directions to the respondents to take all the steps to give full effect to the provisions contained in the said act and thereby to prevent cruelty to the animals, thereby prohibiting bull fights and all other fights of the like nature involving animals including birds which can cause injuries and cruelty to the animals...

...Before we conclude,...we are reminded of the words of Justice Krishna Iyer in his lecture on human rights. While expressing deep anguish and sigh of great displeasure over torture inflicted on innocent animals in this country and that too despite the Vedas, the Bible, the Koran, the Buddha and Mahavir and the Supreme miracle and revolutionary apostle of Ahimsa, Mahatmaji, Justice Krishna Iyer further reminds us that humanism cannot be halved by denying it to prehuman brethren and compassion is beyond division by refusing it to the Darwinian species; all life is too divinely integral to admit of unnatural dichotomy as man and animal in the wholeness of ecology.

Justice Krishna Iyer, therefore, reminds us the message of Kindness found in Koran which reads as under :

"There is not an animal on the earth, nor a flying creature on two wings, but they are people like unto you."

(Excerpts from the historical judgement delivered by Justice R K Batta and Justice R M S Khandeparkar of Mumbai high court, Panaji bench.)






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