Vasugi tasted the rewards of protest on Tuesday morning. She and her cousins, Dilber, Keerthiniya, and Webster, sat on makeshift stands hooting at bulls chasing men in Madurai’s Alanganallur town. Coconut husks lined the path, soft bedding to protect against injury if a rogue bull tossed a man in the air.
By mid-morning, just as Keerthiniya grew hoarse from the screaming, three rounds of jallikattu, the traditional bull-vault sport that takes place around the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal, had been completed.
Of the 1,100 bulls and 400 tamers registered to participate at the Alanganallur event, 220 bulls and 95 tamers had already had a field day winning gold coins, mixies, and LED TVs. For first place in the competition – the keys to a Nissan Magnite car – either a tamer had to tame as many bulls as he could, or a bull had to look ferocious enough that no tamer dared come close. One bull succeeded in this quest and later plonked itself in the middle of the arena for a light rest.
At 7.24 am, to thunderous applause, Tamil Nadu’s minister for youth welfare and sports development, Udhayanidhi Stalin, flagged off his first jallikattu after being appointed to the state cabinet a month…