After Jallikattu, Protests For Karnataka's Kambala Gain Steam

Karnataka is facing an ongoing agitation for the return of Kambal, a tradition buffalo race.

Bengaluru: Demands for a court-ordered ban on a traditional animal-based sport to be lifted; protests on the street; talk of an ordinance to circumvent laws on animal cruelty. Sounds familiar? These are not pro-Jallikattu protests in Tamil Nadu, but an ongoing agitation for the return of Kambala - a traditional buffalo-racing event in neighbouring Karnataka where buffaloes are made to race through mud and water spurred on by a farmer who runs alongside with a whip.

The argument of protesters is, "If Jallikattu is allowed, why not Kambala too?" Vatal Nagaraj, ex-MLA and founder of the Vatal Paksha, told NDTV, "They have to give permission for Kambala. If they don't we will protest against the central government. They have given permission for Jallikattu and have to give for Kambala. Otherwise the whole state will protest and go to jail."

As in Tamil Nadu, the state government and public figures including film stars and politicians are also giving their support to the return of the races.

BJP leader Suresh Kumar said his party would back moves by the ruling Congress to bring back the event. He said, "In the light of what has happened to Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, state government should immediately come out with an ordinance if necessary or with an Act...BJP as principal opposition party will support any such move by the state government."

But what has not changed are the reasons for which Kambala was banned, the same as for Jallikattu. The potential cruelty and stress to the animals involved. Animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA said in a statement, "Now, not content with being permitted to deliberately terrify bulls during Jallikattu, protesters are also calling for the legalization of bull and buffalo races during which animals are often hit with nail-studded sticks...The Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka...in its interim order, had observed that 'tradition cannot overtake the law', ... The court was of the view that there was no 'justifiable exception' for conducting Kambala races, as water buffaloes are 'not meant for racing'."

Bengaluru-based animal activist, Gopi Shankar, told NDTV, "I think it sets a very bad precedent in the sense every time an aggrieved party loses a case, particularly if it is the government, then you go promulgate an ordinance and overturn the judgement. The fact that Karnataka wants to emulate the not very positive example set by our neighbouring state is very unfortunate. Like it or not, there is cruelty involved in every sport that involves animals."

The Karnataka High Court will hear the matter on January 30.
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