Jallikattu Row: Rising Above the ‘Human-Centric’ Approach Can Help

All our debates conveniently fall into the parameters of whether or not the issue at hand serves human interest.

4 min read
People in large numbers stage a protest against the arrest of those who have demonstrated in favour of Jallikattu in Chennai on 17 January, 2017. (Photo: IANS)
Jallikattu Row: Rising Above the ‘Human-Centric’ Approach Can Help

The Jallikattu ban ushers in a new era of fighting for the oppressed, mainly because it brings an oft-ignored topic back into the limelight – the fight for the animal rights and their entitlement to dignity. Just to see the issue being splashed across national media is, in itself, an indication that the nation’s collective consciousness has reached a new milestone.

I don’t know if it is just me; but of late, we seem to be seeing many debates, arguments or even conflict between people over the interests and the rights of animals.

Also Read: Watch: Jallikattu Is a Part of Tamil Identity, Says Actor Vijay

Selfish Interests

While on one hand, it is heartening to see a negligible percentage of humans thinking beyond themselves, on the other hand, the debates highlight the fact that we are disconnected from Nature.

All our debates conveniently fall into the parameters of whether or not the issue at hand serves human interest.

The only time we deem an issue important enough for us to take it up, is when it affects us, either directly or indirectly. This is the human-centric approach, under which the world revolves around us.

Perils of Human-Centric Approach

When we use this human-centric approach at the core of our physical, psychological, philosophical and spiritual selves, we are disregarding many fundamental aspects of our existence.

When we look at everything from a single perspective, in this case, the human-centric perspective, then, as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says, we begin to invoke the danger of a single story.

Villagers try to control a bull during Jallikattu. (Photo: Reuters)
Villagers try to control a bull during Jallikattu. (Photo: Reuters)

And in this case, we invoke the danger of the single story of a single species that has been mindlessly and systematically eradicating every other species. In just the last two decades, humans have been responsible for the extinction of thousands of species. And the day isn’t far when we paint ourselves into a corner and pose a threat to our own existence.

Also Read: Jallikattu Doesn’t Violate Individual Rights, Banning It Does

Issue of Animal Rights

With this in mind, our approach towards issues cannot help but be multi-layered. If our dialogues need to be progressive, they need to be positioned and held beyond the gambits of our human-centric existence.

For example, when we debate the concepts of veganism vs vegetarianism vs non-vegetarianism, the lines are blurred over what constitutes or defines the morality of said concepts.

When the beef ban was put in place (albeit for reasons that were not spurred by animal rights) by the Maharashtra government, the liberal champions of 'freedom' immediately pounced and alleged that the ban infringed on their right to choose their food. While we cannot deny that these are personal choices and not ones to be made by the state, we seem to have forgotten about animals and their right to life.

So we have to ask ourselves: how are we arrogant enough to talk about our eating rights when we seem to completely disregard even the basic rights of sentient beings? This is where the concept of human-centricity rears its head. Everything, according to us, be it living or non-living, must serve human need in some form or the other. This rides on the assumption that non-human beings do not have a purpose of their own.

Segregation from Nature

Every debate that pits humans against the environment seems to overlook the fact that every time we do this, we separate ourselves from the Nature, instead of acknowledging the fact that we are an intrinsic part of the environment.

And in this denial of our oneness with Nature combined with our arrogance, we isolate ourselves further and further from everything around us – the animals, forests, the soil, the atmosphere, the rivers and the oceans.

We no longer live in a world that is disconnected by geography. But if we truly want to inch towards a harmonious world, it is important that we try and understand the interconnectedness of it all.

While the Supreme Court’s 2014 judgement on Jallikattu is firmly rooted in the interconnectedness of Nature – in this case, the animals and their right to a dignified life – the Tamil Nadu state’s stance has been staunchly dismissive of it and more human-centric, or to be precise, human-culture-centric.

Also Read: Jallikattu Row: Customs Greater Than an Animal’s Right to Live?

“Empathy Rarely Extends Beyond the Line of Sight”

We are yet to see holistic, political ideologies that go beyond our conceited perspectives. “Empathy rarely extends beyond the line of sight”, they say, but we are increasingly heading towards a global awakening that requires us to negate this view. Because when we lose that empathy, we shut down a fundamental part of being human which makes us numb and eventually capable of inflicting pain.

In a world where all our hopes are often quashed by the all-prevailing hatred and disharmony, I wonder why we can’t counter the hatred with a gentle but fierce sensitivity – one that is replete with compassion, mindfulness and a holistic understanding of what it means to be human. I think that can happen only if we start thinking beyond the human-centric approach.

(The author is an independent filmmaker and is a part of Accessible Horizon films, a collective of conscious filmmakers. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

Also Read: Defending Jallikattu in the Name of Tradition Is Like Backing Sati

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