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An ugly row about sacred cows | The Economist

Movie stardom was to propel MGR, and later also his leading lady, Jayalalithaa, to the pinnacle of state politics. Their party, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam or AIADMK, espoused Tamil exceptionalism: the idea that Tamils are racially, linguistically and culturally distinct from Aryan, Indo-European northerners. And what better proof could there be that the north does not sufficiently respect the traditions and dignity of the south than the Supreme Courts decision earlier this month to uphold a ban on jallikattu it had first issued in 2014, at the behest of animal-rights activists? The police in Chennai, the state capital, attempted to enforce the ban by raiding bull pens and arresting scores of would-be contestants before the start of the jallikattu season at the annual harvest festival of pongal in mid-January. In response, a giant crowd of protesters gathered along a wide, sandy stretch of the Marina Beach in the centre of the city, hoping to prod the AIADMK government to defy the court. Similar protests snowballed across Tamil Nadu. Marina Beach became a seaside Tahrir Square, complete with vendors, volunteer battalions of cleaners and shows of solidarity among Hindus, Muslims and Christians. From a defence of a traditional sport the protest metastasised into a wider declaration of Tamil identity against perceived alien influence, whether in the form of meddling from faraway Delhi, or of a Hindi-language cultural invasion, or of alleged attempts to impose north-Indian norms of Hindu practice. (Some pious Hindus from the northern cow belt, where cattle are especially revered, supported the ban.) Politicians of all stripes jumped on the bandwagon. Even the local head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a Hindu-nationalist group that defends the sanctity of cows, found a way to please the crowds. He said that while he was neutral about jallikattu he would fight against what he termed a conspiracy to finish off native Indian breeds to help international companies to market their own breeds.

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There's still time to lace up the ice skates and head down to Cleveland's Public Square; Line dancing is on tap every Thursday at Mitchell's in Euclid | cleveland.com

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