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20 Jan 2020: The Hindu Editorial Analysis

1) On Governors vs Kerala and West Bengal governments: Needless fracas

  • The endless squabbles between the Governors and respective State governments in Kerala and West Bengal are disconcerting. Arif Mohammad Khan and Jagdeep Dhankhar, Governors of Kerala and West Bengal, respectively, have arrogated to themselves an activist role, which is at the heart of the tensions. 
  • Mr. Khan has made repeated public statements on controversial questions such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019; he has even said that it was his duty to defend the laws made by the Centre. 
  • It is a dubious claim to make, and at any rate, there is no discernible precedent as such. His view that his office is not a rubber stamp is true, but he must also be mindful that the Constitution envisages the execution of popular will through an elected government. 
  • Mr. Dhankhar has placed himself at the centre of several controversies, and often appears eager for the next spectacular showdown with the State government. 
  • Kerala’s Left Democratic Front has been more restrained than the combative resistance by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, but parties barring the BJP in both States are agitated over the proactive, and often provocative roles of their respective Governors. 
  • The boisterous profiles of these Governors are symptomatic of a larger malaise of degrading relations between the Centre and States ruled by parties opposed to the BJP, aggravated by an insatiable yearning of the former for centralisation of power.
  • The Constitution seeks to bolster centripetal forces in this vast and diverse country, and the Centre’s power to appoint Governors is one such. The Governor’s constitutional role has been debated and interpreted through several cases, but ingenious occupants of the office have managed to push the boundaries with unprecedented moves. 

  • Sagacious occupants have used the Governor’s office to promote national integration. Many others have merely acted as agents of the ruling party at the Centre. Using a pliant Governor to undermine a State government or engineer a legislative majority is an old and secular trick used by all parties at the Centre. 
  • State government-Governor conflicts have hence not been rare, but what makes the current situation extraordinary is the political context. No other government in the past has sought to construct a centralising narrative for the nation as the current one at the Centre; and no government in the past has been as intolerant towards its diversity. 
  • In this schema, the Governor appears to have a critical, instrumental role. The ignominious role played by the then Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in ending its special constitutional status last year is instructive. 
  • The Governor’s role as a link between the State and the Centre shall not be an imperial one. The office of the Governor must be a dialogic and consultative one. The combative posturing in Kerala and West Bengal will bring more disarray, no unity. 
  • Governors must not push boundaries of their limited powers to check elected governments and The Centre must treat State governments with the respect that democratically elected governments deserve.


2) On jallikattu: Bull and gore

  • Seen by the courts as cruelty on bulls, but celebrated in Tamil Nadu as a display of valour, the rural sport of jallikattu is an inevitable part of the Pongal season in the State. 
  • It is promoted as a tourist attraction by the government and its appeal as a symbol of Tamil culture remains the same year after year. It is only the odd voice that sees it as a relic of a feudal past. 
  • However, one aspect that remains unchanged - through the years in which the legality of the bull-taming sport was questioned, the event itself banned, and then restored by law - is that every season, it leaves a few dead and scores wounded.
  • Often, these wounds are a trauma doctor’s nightmare, given the grievous nature of the bull gore injuries. It is an event that cries for maximum regulation. The regulations have been tightened from time to time, and no event takes place without official permission or medical supervision. 
  • The playing arena is protected by double barricades, the entry point and ‘collection point’, where the bulls are to be taken back by the owners after they leave the arena, are supposed to have sufficient protective features to minimise incidents that lead to injuries and fatalities. 
  • Yet, some have died in the main events that took place in the last few days; they include bull owners, spectators and an organiser. The victims were mostly gored or stomped upon. 
  • Over a hundred are being treated for injuries, some of which are quite serious, marked by internal ruptures that may have a lasting effect on the victims. The truth about jallikattu is that it is well nigh impossible to hold an incident-free event. 
  • Even conceding that every sport has an element of the danger of injury, especially contact sports, the distinguishing feature of events involving animals is that they are driven by the instinct of self-preservation and anxiety, and are not bound by rules and reason the way human participants are. 

  • Inevitably, the human casualty list is higher, even though it has been long argued, and even judicially determined that jallikattu constitutes a grave violation of animal rights and a perpetration of cruelty on them. 
  • Popular sentiment, political patronage and the cultural instinct to preserve practices that hark back to a hoary past contribute collectively to the continuance of the sport. Other virtues attributed to it include giving native breeds a good shot at survival and an opportunity to youth to develop a robust outlook even while earning rewards. 
  • What should ultimately matter, above all, is that any activity that endangers participant and onlooker alike should be held under rigorously monitored regulations and restrictions. It is also time that appropriate protective gear is devised and made mandatory for participants.