TODAY -

Jallikattu & Khunu-Tunaba (pigeon-fight)

Free Thinker *



Once upon a time in Rome the gladiators used to ferociously fight and die within the arena in the presence of thousands of expectators in the amphitheaters; it was an extremely crowd-pleasing sport but now it is extinct. In early modern period fox-hunting was a very popular time-pass (game) in England.

Till the last decade bull-fighting was a great happening sport of entire Spain. Few years back Regional Government in Spain banned bull-fighting. Perhaps last year Spain's Constitutional Court has overturned the ban on bull-fighting citing 'preservation of common cultural heritage'. But the battle is still on between the culture- lovers and animal- lovers.

In the second half of the 19th century pigeon-fight (Khunu-Tunaba) was a very popular time-pass-sport in Manipur. It was more popular than any other games because rampant gambling was also associated with this sport. Even the members of the royal family were involved in the bettings on pigeon-fights.

Ethel Grimwood in her account (My Three Years in Manipur) jotted down that "the Manipuris are great gamblers and they used to make these pigeon-fights the occasion for betting considerably." The game of pigeon-fight was banned.

Despite the ban people used to continue with this widely popular sport. Mrs Grimwood narrated that Angousana (prince) was very fond of betting on pigeon-fights and he was never caught.

That time the issue was not about the pigeons right (animals right) but about the rampant betting and gambling. It became a menace in the society. Today the issue is about animals right as well as gambling.

Few years back some 23 people were arrested in Chief Minister's constituency as they were involved in pigeon-fight (Khunu- Tunaba) and betting. That means the tradition of pigeon -fight is still alive in our society. I wonder can we revive Khunu-Tunaba as part of our cultural heritage despite the Prevention of cruelty to Animals Act and anti-gambling laws? Can we regulate and revive it? Pondering !

The narrative of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu is very similar to that of Spanish bull-fighting. The only major difference is that in Tamil Nadu the bull is not killed at the end.

However, both the game/culture are extremely voguish till date. The struggle between the animal rights activists and cultural rights activists will continue. The most interesting part of this polemic is the thesis and anti-thesis of both the sides.

When the animal rights activists are getting stronger and become more powerful one day all the games associated with the horses will also be banned including the Equestrian sports which are still a part of major world Games. They had already conquered the Circus (use of animals are now banned almost everywhere).

Now they are after the bulls; I mean looking after the bulls world-wide. Once the battle of the bulls is won the next target could be the horses including our pony. The crucial issue before us is that where should we draw the line between men's(women's) rights and animal rights? Where should we strike a balance between men and animals? Let us take our own example.

Polo is a wonderful game played on the horse-back. If the animal rights activists say that this (polo) amounts to the torture of the horse or the pony. Do we have the reply? It may happen in the near future; I am just anticipating things. Are we ready for a 'Marina Beach' at Polo ground? I think so.

Whether it is rational or not, whether it is logical or not, whether it is reasonable or not, we make opinions and take decisions on the basis of our limited wisdom or knowledge. Once Socrates was proven wrong and even Copernicus was proven wrong.

In earlier days, the high and mighty decided what is wrong or right? Today it is slightly better because common people can influence the decision makers in deciding what is right or wrong?

The governments quite often listen to the public opinion. If I say that even the judicial pronouncements are sometimes based on public perceptions apart from legality. Is it a faux pas or a contempt on my part?

Once animal rights activists were having a camp in Keibul Lamjao National Park for counting the number of 'Sangai'(brow- antler- deer). By chance I landed there on a picnic and I saw them frying fresh fishes for their lunch. I gave a meaningful smile to them.

They could get the meaning of my gesture and responded, "fish is not an animal". I told them that "I want to believe them because I too love fishes particularly Rohu".

If there is a clash between men's(women's) rights and animals' rights, I think I will stand by the animals for the simple reason that they can't hire lawyers or lobby with the leaders. But my heart goes out for men's rights( culture, heritage, eating-habits etc.8).


* Free Thinker wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 30, 2017.


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