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My thoughts on Jallikattu

It Jallikattu bull getting an affectionate kiss from his caretaker

There has been a nationwide debate going on whether the age-old festival celebrated in southern states, Jallikattu, should be banned or not. The Supreme Court of India banned the organisation of Jallikattu in 2014 and since then there has been many petitions to the court to review the decision and let people celebrate the event. The Tamil Nadu government has sought Centre’s intervention regarding this. The central government is in the process of passing an ordinance to allow people to hold Jallikattu.

What’s Jallikattu?

This link traces its history back to 5000 years ago when cow herders used to tame bulls that went out of control. Then later on it turned into a sport. The link above presents a case in favour of organising Jallikattu and why the festival, or event, is important for the survival of the indigenous species of cows. Of course there are contrary views and many believe that in the name of the sport animals are mistreated.

Even a few weeks ago, I was strongly opposing Jallikattu. According to the information I had, or rather the opinion that I had formed without much research, just to prove how strong some people are, they severely harass the animals and sometimes they are even gored to death (both animals and humans) .

Does it happen? Can’t say. But the general perception — and I have gotten this information from people I really trust — is that there might be some instances when the animals are cruelly treated but otherwise, it is a totally harmless sport considering everything that goes on all over the world and in different communities in the name of tradition and culture.

Is Jallikattu a blood sport?

This small Inshorts news update calls Jallikattu a “blood sport”.

Is bullfighting in Spain a blood sport? Yes it is. Is cockfighting a blood sport? Yes, it is. In Afghanistan they play polo with a severed head of a sheep instead of a ball. Is it a blood sport? Yes it is.

There are many sports in the world that involve animals that can be easily termed as “blood sport” because in those sports sometimes animals die horrible deaths. There was a sport in Punjab in which hounds were let loose on rabbits. This bloodsport was rightfully banned. Hunting is banned in many regions although the decision to ban hunting is less ethical and more “practical”.

So, is Jallikattu a blood sport?

As far as I know, all in all it is not a blood sport. It does not involve killing or maiming a bull, traditionally. You prove your manliness not by killing the bull as it happens in Spanish bullfighting and animal fighting in other regions. You prove your manliness by overpowering the bull. In some cases, the one who can mount the bull and then stay on its back for a longer period than others, is the champion.

It’s like rodeo in America. In America rodeo is a famous sport. It has been reverentially featured in many movies. The activity even has a complete sporting event dedicated to it. Do you call it a blood sport? Not necessarily. Do the bulls or horses remain unharmed 100%? Not necessarily. Do people resort to cruel means to incite the animals as much as possible? Some do. Most don’t.

Then there are competitions on how well trained your dog is. Many people cruelly treat their dogs in order to make them perform different tricks.

The same happens with Jallikattu. Nasty people are everywhere. Cruelty is inherent in some people and they are going to be cruel in many aspects of life, including Jallikattu.

Untold cruelties are perpetrated on day-to-day basis in slaughterhouses. The biryani that you enjoyed a few days ago and even posted its photograph on Facebook, was a result of a cruelty. Some animal was slaughtered. When they slaughter animals they’re not worried about causing the animal minimum or maximum pain. For them, the animal is just an object, a piece of meat.

Have you seen those shacks by the roadside crammed with chickens? So many birds are crammed into these shacks that they are crushed while alive. They start pecking each other and even gorge the eyes of their fellow occupants. And this is something that you may come across every day going to office or college. This is not some sort of cruelty that is happening out of your sight.

These people are totally desensitised. Animals are slaughtered in front of each other. Sometimes individual body parts are chopped off while the animal is still alive and screaming.

What about sacrificing animals in the name of religion? Millions of goats and cows are sacrificed by Muslims. In many temples goats, chickens and bulls are sacrificed. On Thanksgiving millions of turkeys are consumed in the name of tradition. There is a fish recipe that requires a live fish to be shallow fried. There is a Chinese recipe — although I’m not sure if this is factually correct or not — requires dogs to be boiled alive.

Talking about fish — they’re not even considered meat by many. In fact, if you want to see animal cruelty, observe how fish are treated. Sometimes they start peeling them while they are writhing. They are cut to pieces while the individual body parts are still shaking. Fishing is considered to be a therapeutic, meditative activity by many. Sticking the hook in the throat of a fish is a romantic activity for many. Small kids are taught by their fathers how to fish. Books have been written on this. Movies have been made.

Have you ever seen how horses, bulls, camels and donkeys are treated in their day-to-day usage? I once saw a bullock cart owner repeatedly hitting the genitals of his oxen to make them run faster.

What I’m trying to say is, as long as animals are a part of our lives, cruelty to animals, whether we like it or not, is going to exist. Maybe, after a few centuries, when we no longer have to depend on animals for food and labour, or when animals no longer exist as abundantly as they still do, they will have the same rights to life as the privileged among us have. But until then, animal cruelty is going to exist, whether we like it or not.

No, I’m not saying since cruelty exists in many spheres of our lives so we shouldn’t speak up against animal cruelty. We certainly should. Thankfully many practices of animal cruelty have been banned. The sport of hounds hunting the rabbits, for example. It was well-deservedly banned. The use of animals in circuses have been banned. The traditional bear tamers and snake charmers are practically non-existent these is, which is good.

Blatant hypocrisy of the rights activists

But sometimes I feel some traditions are targeted by rights activists simply because they belong to a particular religion. When it comes to Hindu traditions, they seem to have a problem with every practice. Don’t celebrate Jallikattu because bulls are treated cruelly. Don’t celebrate festivals involving elephants. Don’t celebrate festivals involving snakes. Don’t fly kites because they may injure birds. Don’t burst crackers on Diwali because they cause pollution. Don’t celebrate Holi because it wastes water. Don’t celebrate Rakhi and Karvachauth as they reaffirm patriarchy. Don’t do “visarjan” because it makes rivers dirty. Don’t do Puja because it offends people of other religions and communities. Don’t cremate the dead because again, burning dead people causes pollution. This goes on and on.

Are some animals treated cruelly during festivals? Unfortunately, yes, they are. But these are exceptions, not rules. Do some birds get injured during kite flying? Yes, but again, exceptions, not a rule. Recently a kid’s throat was slit by Chinese manja during kite flying, so yes, freak accidents happen. Do crackers cause pollution? Yes, they do, but there are other activities that cause far more pollution than the crackers, and that too, year-round. Cattle breeding is more environmentally harmful than bursting crackers one day in a year. Millions of gallons of water is wasted in swimming pools and on golf courses but suddenly we have a problem when people sprinkle water on each other on Holi. Almost every animal under the sun is eaten as a delicacy, but suddenly, parading elephants during religious festivals, feeding snakes milk and using bulls in Jallikattu become paragons of cruelty.

Don’t you think this reeks of an inveterate bias? Even a conspiracy? Had these rights activists been raising voices against all instances of cruelty originating from every religion and every community, it would have made sense and it wouldn’t have seemed motivated. When was the last time you heard of animal rights activists coming on roads against Bakra-eid or even the mass consumption of turkeys on the Thanksgiving day? How many online petitions have you come across protesting against fishing? What about rodeo? Has any organisation ever tried to get it banned? What about beef eating? What about horses used for horse carts and bulls used for bullock carts and donkeys used by labourers? What about camels, bulls, horses and oxen used by farmers all over the world. What would sledge dogs? What about all those monkeys and rats used in laboratories? What about billions of frogs being dissected in the schools? On top of that, when many well-intentioned Hindus talk about cow protection, they are termed as communal. When you want to speak up for the bulls used in Jallikattu, you are an animal rights activist. When you want to stop cows from being slaughtered and want to protect them, you are communal. How crazy can it get?

I know, I may seem like digressing here, but what I mean to say is, why target a particular community always? And even if you want to target that community, why not make it a fair activity and speak up against every instance of cruelty from every religion? You suddenly turn a deaf ear when goats bleat in pain during a certain festival, and then you suddenly become all vocal when you see some bulls being mistreated during Jallikattu or snakes being fed milk. Play fair.

Having said that, ideally, cruelty should have no place in the civilised world, but the definition of cruelty seems to be changing based on religion, community, culture and tradition. Cutting fish to pieces while it is alive or sticking a hook in its throat is acceptable and even romanticised while a game that involves overpowering a bull is considered cruel. Just because a bull is bigger than a fish? Somehow, no matter how hard I try, it doesn’t seem right.

Personally I don’t subscribe to the attitude of “since they do that we will do this” because I like forming my own opinions so I’m not saying we should be okay with animal cruelty because in many cultures animal cruelty is not just a part of life, but also a revered, religious activity. But I certainly believe that we should take a holistic, inclusive and uniform approach. Let’s be against animal cruelty wherever it exists.

In the meantime, instead of trying to ban traditional sports that are not by nature cruel to animals but certainly have some scope for animals being treated cruelly, we should make it difficult for people to treat animals cruelly. Communities should be involved and people should be sensitised. Instead of making it into a “them versus us” campaign, let’s establish a people to people contact and try to understand why certain practices exist.

For the time being, I think Jallikattu should be allowed and measures should be taken so that animals are not treated cruelly.

Photo courtesy: Swarajya Magazine

Content marketing for local business

Local businesses can use content marketing to their great advantage but unfortunately, most of the local businesses aren’t even aware of the concept. I’ll give a personal example.

The housing society where I live has a Facebook page. The page was created so that the residents could exchange ideas and although, the exchange of ideas does happen, people mostly post messages to promote their local businesses, and one of such businesses is a small catering business that is perhaps run from within one of the apartments in another housing society.

In the beginning, when they hadn’t yet created a nuisance on our housing society’s Facebook page, I had contacted them because I was interested in getting early breakfast from them (which, they don’t provide, but promote anyway). Now I don’t remember how I shared my phone number with them, they also included me in a WhatsApp group. Later on I had to block their number because they were sending 5–10 image messages every day about what a great catering service they have and what are their offerings for the day.

As I am always excited about helping new businesses in the beginning I advised them to register themselves with Google Local. I also told them not to spam the Facebook page and the WhatsApp group but, although, they didn’t know how to set up themselves in Google Local and I provided them step-by-step instruction, they didn’t take me seriously when I told them that continuously posting senseless messages is going to be counter-productive. Eventually people started complaining about them on the Facebook page and like me, many blocked them on WhatsApp.

Although the catering service is using the available content distribution channels like Facebook and WhatsApp, they are not providing any value through their content. They’re overdoing it by posting their menu multiple times in a day. They are not making personal connections. I helped them with the Google Local listing, I initially showed interest in their service and even interacted with them multiple times but even with me, they have never tried to make a connection. They were simply crowding my timeline with their menus and photographs of the food they are cooking. They never even thanked me for the Google Local listing help. And the worst part is, when I eventually tried to order breakfast, they informed me that they couldn’t deliver, and that was the last straw.

A very nice example of creating a presence through providing content (in the form of a low-cost service) is the hair-salon chain owner Habeeb. Although he runs a chain, at the micro level, what he is doing is, running a local business. Although in the conventional content marketing sense, he doesn’t use the Internet, it definitely uses the “freemium” service to attract customers, and the sort of tactic he uses certainly qualifies as content marketing, or at least inbound marketing (which is, content marketing seen from the other side).

In the local malls, mostly in the basement lobby, he hires a small space and erects a temporary, mostly wooden structure. In the wooden box (with good interiors) a sleek, unisex salon is run. You can get a nice haircut at 20–30% of what you would normally pay to a nice salon in a mall or a posh market. The hairstylists (normally very young trainees) are very courteous and friendly and give you a basic haircut with all the modern gadgetry. Seats are always occupied and one only has to wait for his or her turn. The place makes good money, it is very affordable, it offers good service and the initial investment is very little. Then, after a couple of years, he opens the big saloon where you have to pay the normal posh-salon rates. Does brisk business.

He doesn’t have to spend on advertising; instead, he advertises round-the-clock in various malls. Everybody is familiar with the name because the box is always set up at the most crowded place. At a fraction of the cost of conventional advertising, he doesn’t just create a presence for himself, but also makes good money while laying ground for the bigger, five-star salon.

What has it got to do with content marketing for local business? I think you already know what I’m talking about.

He is basically indulging in content marketing as a local business. Instead of providing content in terms of text, video and audio, he is offering his service at a highly affordable rate at strategic locations. In the local community, instead of stepping on everybody’s toes, he is providing a useful service. Those who don’t want to get a haircut at a roadside unkempt barbershop but also don’t want to spend a ton of money in a salon, are very thankful that there is a place that is clean, well-lit and efficient and all the hair stylists are neat and clean and courteous.

But not every local business can afford to provide such a service either for free or even at a lower cost. Such local businesses can use content marketing to their great advantage.

Local businesses can use content marketing channels like Facebook, YouTube and to an extent even WhatsApp to stay connected with their customers without annoying them with useless updates. As a customer, from a catering service, I don’t need an update on their daily menu, but I definitely need to know what sort of service they are running, whether they are reliable or not and what the others think of them. For that they can create a Facebook page and invite people in the neighbourhood to join. They can create a food channel on YouTube. They can start a blog detailing how they cook various items.

As long as content is relevant, it doesn’t always have to be something about your business. Yes, eventually, it is about your brand, but be useful. Be a part of a community through useful content. Encourage people to talk about your business on social networking websites, blogs and even YouTube videos. Make videos of your satisfied customers if they don’t mind and then post them on YouTube. Create an Instagram account or a Snapchat account if you want to post daily pics of your food items.

Stay tuned — in the coming days I will be publishing posts on how different local businesses can use content marketing to their advantage.

Are you a local business or a small business wondering how to use content marketing to promote yourself? Let’s talk. Click on the banner below to go to my website and know more about my content writing services.

Fake news is a problem on the Internet, but look who is talking

Donald Trump is now the President-designate of the US and Democrats and liberals are driving themselves crazy trying to pin the blame on something or someone to make sense of exactly what happened. Most of the Democrats-friendly media was so sure of Hillary Clinton becoming the president that Newsweek published an issue in advance showing Hillary Clinton as president on the cover page and the Washington Post was already having a party in celebration of Hillary Clinton becoming the president. So wrong was their grasp of reality.

Since most of the liberals and Democrats are not in the habit of self-analysis (so self-assured they are) they’re looking for a whipping boy at every nook and corner and finally they seem to have found one: fake news on the Internet.

Fake news on the Internet is a serious problem but fake news as a concept isn’t unique to the Internet or something unique to the recent rise of Donald Trump. The people who have benefited from the concept of disseminating fake news the most are actually the Liberals and intellectuals that subscribe to an ideological bent of mind that underpins the political posturing of the Democrats (I know, a bit longer sentence). In the name of serious news many misinformation campaigns are carried out.

Barack Obama may be genuinely expressing his concern about the rising menace of fake news on the Internet and the sort of impact it has had on the recently-conducted presidential elections, it isn’t just one side that benefits from fake news, and unless this is accepted on a broader scale, no lasting solution can be found.

Also, if you think that people are believing more in fake news rather than real news, why exactly are they doing so? You can be condescending and assume that people are not smart enough, or you can go to the root cause of the problem that may eventually solve your own problem.

In India we have had what they call “atrocity literature” that is just another form of fake news. Atrocity literature is used by individuals and organizations in India to tell it to the world what sort of atrocities are being committed on minorities and people of lower castes in India. Most of these are fake news but since they are propagated by the so-called “prestigious sources” people all over the world lap them up like gospel truths.

Just like Donald Trump, immediately after Narendra Modi became the PM there was a deluge of news about minorities being targeted. There was this news about churches being vandalized in Delhi because Christians were being targeted and later on it was found these the so-called “attacks on churches” were simple cases of theft and break-ins.

In West Bengal there was news about is 70-year-old Christian nun being raped by Hindu fundamentalists and the news was covered by all mainstream newspapers in the West including Washington Post. Later on it was found that the dastardly act was carried out by Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh. The same mainstream news publications that had published multiple articles and opinion pieces on Hindu fundamentalists raping a Christian nun suddenly moved on and there wasn’t even a single article or opinion piece telling the truth.

Take this video as another example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2gaegtyuDM

In this video the world-renowned author and human rights activist explains to a Western audience that the people burned alive in Godhra (the act that triggered the 2002 Gujarat riots) were “pilgrims” coming back from the destroyed Babri Masjid, insinuating that the occupants of the ill-fated bogies were not innocent. The mosque was demolished in 1992 and she was talking about an incident that happened in 2002 but observe how she is mixing up both the events to drive-forth her agenda of demonizing the victims. This is just a small instance I could quickly find because I remembered it.

Another dude cooked up the story about him being threatened by an autorickshaw driver because he was carrying a leather bag made of cowhide. Later on he confessed that he made up the story because he hates Hindus (cow is considered holy by Hindus).

The point is not that this person created a fake news story, the point is, whereas every major English-speaking online and off-line news publication — both Indian and international — published articles about how this person was targeted by a Hindu autorickshaw driver for carrying a leather bag made of cowhide, nobody followed up with the actual story. The moment the truth came out, the topic was dropped. This happens all the time. A fake news is published but when it is revealed that it was fake news, nobody does a follow-up.

Publications that do a follow-up are immediately labelled as communal and Right-wing.

In America there has been a spate of such stories where African Americans and other immigrants are being targeted by people emboldened by Donald Trump’s victory. A Muslim woman made up a story about her being attacked by Donald Trump supporters.

Hundreds of such stories about various atrocities and injustices being committed in India are constantly planted. Yes, atrocities and injustices happen in every society but in this case, the number of occurrences are multiplied hundreds of times. The problem is less about mistakenly publishing fake news and more about not undoing the damage later, purposely.

These instances may seem grim for a technology blog but what I’m trying to explain is if fake news is a problem the source of this problem is being looked for all the wrong places. Yes, the supporters of Donald Trump may had planted many fake news stories like “Hillary Clinton is actually a giraffe”, the real, more sinister fake news comes from the side of the Democrats. In India, more vicious and sinister fake news comes from the Indian Left-lib-intellectual class. These bits of fake news don’t just have political impacts, they have lasting social and cultural impacts that go very deep.

This post was originally published on TechBakBak.com.