NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has overturned a Supreme Court ban on a bull-wrestling festival that fuelled massive protests in southern India by demonstrators who called it an attack on their culture.
India's Supreme Court outlawed the Jallikattu festival last year after a plea by animal rights groups, which have long accused participants in the event -- held every year in different parts of southern Tamil Nadu state -- of cruelty to the animals.
Tensions have escalated in recent days as thousands of protesters gathered in state capital Chennai and other cities, prompting Tamil Nadu's chief minister to travel to Delhi to ask Modi to overturn the ban, which he did late Friday.
"We are very proud of the rich culture of Tamil Nadu. All efforts are being made to fulfil the cultural aspirations of Tamil people," Modi posted on Twitter on Saturday.
We are very proud of the rich culture of Tamil Nadu. All efforts are being made to fulfil the cultural aspirations of Tamil people.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 21, 2017
The Tamil Nadu governor is expected to approve Modi's executive order later in the day, paving the way for Jallikattu to resume as early as Sunday.
Critics say that organisers lace the bulls' feed with liquor to make them less steady on their feet and throw chilli powder in their faces to send them into a sudden frenzy as they are released from a holding pen.
Unlike in traditional Spanish bullfighting, the animals are let loose into open fields where young men compete to subdue them bare-handed.
Organisers of the centuries-old festival insist the animals suffer no harm, calling the event an established part of Tamil culture.
Hundreds of people have been detained by police over the past week for allegedly organising local Jallikattu contests in defiance of the court ban.