Getting bullish about dhirio
Ban or not, Ganesh Chaturthi and dhirio (bull-fighting) go hand in hand in Goa just as jallkattu (bull-fighting) follows Pongal in Tamil Nadu.
It's back on the discussion table after eight bullfights with 16 bulls participating were held last Sunday in the fields at Paliem-Arambol in North Goa. Interestingly, the event that began at 7 am — and had 2,000-odd spectators, some of whom had come in expensive cars, and had caused huge traffic jams on the narrow village roads — falls in Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar's Mandrem constitutency.
Parsekar was blasé about the banned event. First, he pointed out that bullfights were not new in Goa. "Since childhood I have seen bullfights in my village (Arambol), but now due to legal obstruction, the fights are called illegal and tradition has been obstructed, but we cannot break tradition," he told reporters when put on the spot for bullfights happening in his backyard. He admitted that in Arambol (Pernem taluka) there were 25 to 40 bulls (market value of over Rs 1 lakh each) that were reared to get into the ring and fight!
"I am planning to find a solution either by cutting the sharp edge of the bulls horns or putting a safety cap on it and allowing bullfights," Parsekar said next, pointing out that dhirios were common during Ganesh Chaturthi, Diwali and some Catholic feasts.
Parsekar went as far as to say dhirios could fetch the State revenue and added that future grounds may come up for bullfights just as they do for football. "I feel bullfights, if brought within a legal framework and have proper rules, could be a tourist attraction in Goa,”" he said.
Parsekar may go down in history as the CM who never baulked in the face of public disapproval. Remember recently he dismissed the ferment over casinos saying he could not turn away investors?
Dhirio is far from bull
Politicians encourage it, people bet thousands of rupees on it, the police mostly look the other way and dhirios go on. Illegal since 1997, bulls are specially reared and trained to fight each other and have horns filed and sharpened to go in for the kill, so people watching dhirios let out lusty cheers and loosen their purse strings for this bloodsport.
Dhirio is seen as part and parcel of Ganesh Chaturthi that is celebrated for a week by Hindus in Goa. But dhirio has many aficionados in South Goa where the population of Catholics is high and many bullfights are held clandestinely in the fields on the coast, sometimes even impromptu on a Sunday. The secret communication system among dhirio-lovers ensures that they all know and participate but others are kept out of the loop, especially animal activists.
Last year in my village of Velsao in South Goa, a dhirio was held. A rush of people and bulls filling the road at sunset on a Sunday evening means a dhirio has been held. Rarely do police book cases, more often than not they pretend they did not have advance intelligence or worse they had went to the venue but nothing was going on. It should be said that there is only one case of a spectator getting killed.
In December 1996, a Bombay High Court judgement banned bullfights and an appeal filed by the Bull Owners' Association was dismissed by the Supreme Court in January 1997 thus declaring dhirios illegal and in contravention of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
Demand getting louder
The CM said that once they received the report of the House committee on bullfights with St Andre MLA Vishnu Wagh (formed during the last assembly session but not yet notified) as the head, the government would look for options to make it legal. Incidentally, in June Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar had said in Chennai that the Centre intended to lift the ban on Jallikattu.
It is little wonder that these utterings have been like a steroid for the likes of Tony Fernandes, President of the all Goa bull owners association, who has demanded the lifting of the ban on dhirio. "All we have got in the past are assurances". Then there's Simon Caiado, member, who claims no violence is involved in dhirio. "It's just a game where bulls lock horns and push each other to prove their stamina. It is no different from boxing." According to him, "Bulls have supported many families and their children have been able to get an education and jobs."
Sarpanch of Agasaim and bull-owner James Afonso dismissed animal activists' claims that bulls are given alcohol before fights to make them all stirred up. "We love our animals too much to give them liquor and let them come to harm." Bull-owners Pandurang Shetgaonkar and Navso Shetgaonkar of Morjim said dhirio was traditional and should be regularised.
Wagh, incidentally, in September 2013, had held a meeting at Arambol, lobbying for legalising bullfights. But at that time, the BJP had dismissed it as his "private view" and 'the party will not support such a stand as it is illegal'. But then, Manohar Parrikar, now defence minister, was the CM and Wagh was out of favour. But with the BJP in power at the centre and anything to do with Hindu tradition being seen benignly, everything goes apparently!
After witnessing the ferment over Cauvery waters, the Hoganekal project (on the Tamil Nadu- Karnataka border) and the dispute over the Mullaiperiyar dam between Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it is a feeling of déjà vu to see a water dispute in small Goa which is seen as being bullied by neighbouring Karnataka over Mhadei River.
The Kalasa-Banduri Nala (diversion) project, which will utilise 7.56 tmcft of water from the inter-state Mhadei river, is being undertaken by Karnataka to buttress water supply to the twin cities of Hubballi-Dharwad and Belagavi and Gadag districts. It involves building barrages across Kalasa and Banduri, tributaries of Mhadei, to divert 7.56 TMC to Malaprabha river which supplies the drinking water.
The tribunal on sharing Mhadei's river's water was set up in 2009 and it is currently hearing arguments in the case.
Farmers in North Karnataka have been demanding implementation of the project and there was a statewide bandh last Saturday in support of it apart from the burning of a Kadamba bus and other protests in late August. CM Parsekar called it "childish" and a pressure tactic to force an out-of-court settlement. "When the tribunal is about to pass an order, where is the need to agitate?" said Parsekar. The BJP here was more feisty threatening "tit for tat" if Karnataka did not back off. State BJP president Vinay Tendulkar warned, "If required, we will take law into our hands. If Karnataka can stop our vehicles, we can stop theirs (Karnataka) from entering Goa.”"
It seems this war will not end anytime soon particularly with BJP ruling Goa and Congress ruling Karnataka.
Even bad publicity can be good
That seems to be the reigning motto in tiatrist Francis de Tuem's approach to all things. Even though his tiatrs are popular and by themselves a huge draw, this seemingly brash tiatrist feels that in a ?crowded ?ecosystem it's not only his work but a more piquant cocktail that will help keep him in the news.
Last week, Tuem invited Tarun Tejpal ?— ?founder- editor of Tehelka who was accused of rape by a staffer at an event here in November 2013?, ?which led to him being jailed for five months ?— ?to the 100th show of his tiatr Reporter. Reporter mocked deputy CM Francis D'Souza's "Hindu-Kristav" (Hindu Christian) comment, a minister wanting to ban bikinis on beaches in Goa, and former CM Digambar Kamat's 'walk of shame' when he walked with a naked Jain sage.
Inviting Tejpal was Tuem's way of thumbing his nose at the government and politicians. He could have invited any well-known journo but he was apparently going for shock-value. For those who were shocked, his counter was that the rape charge had not been proved against Tejpal!
As tiatr writer Tomazinho Cardozo and former president of Tiatr Academy of Goa commented, "The tiatr is a sensational one and Francis must have got Tejpal, who already had a history, to create more sensation."
Something, Tuem has excelled at. In August, 2013, it was his arrest after a complaint by former minister Francisco Xavier "Mickky" Pacheco (currently in jail for six months after being convicted for slapping a government official) that Tuem blackmailed him — "he threatened to finish me politically if I did not pay Rs 10 lakh" — and the tiatrist spent overnight in a lock-up. There was a huge outcry much of it in support of Tuem and the popular opinion was that politicians should be thick-skinned about the barbs and quips against their breed, which tend to be the fare dished out by tiatrs.
Now Tuem is at the receiving end. The fact that Tuem may have got what he wanted is clear from the hotly debated controversy he has created.
Incidentally, another journalist — Rupesh Samant a senior journalist and TV anchor — is in the eye of a storm after a third police complaint against him for sexual harassment last week. All the women in question allege that Samant sent lewd text messages and emails and "passed sexually coloured remarks" for the last few years.
Samant has denied the charges and has applied for anticipatory bail. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar trotted out the standard line: "The law will take its own course".