Times of India (TOI) has launched a website, Jallikatu.com, to initiate an online poll and generate public opinion on the 2,000 year old sport of bull fighting, or Jallikattu as it is called in Tamil, that takes place in various villages of Tamil Nadu.
Visitors to the website can vote in favour of continuing or banning the sport and can also submit their opinions on Jallikattu.
Jallikattu is usually held on January 15 every year, as part of the Pongal (harvest festival) celebrations, especially in villages near Madurai. The sport involves getting a bull to run in an open space, while unarmed male participants try to tame it by controlling its horns. This activity is supposed to showcase the men's masculinity and strength. Although the bull is not killed in this sport, it results in lots of injuries, and even death, for some of the participants.
Speaking to afaqs!, Rahul Kansal, brand director, TOI, says, "As a newspaper, we always raise local issues related to our readers." The Chennai edition of the newspaper has already started carrying articles on Jallikattu.
Kansal explains the reason for starting the online debate: "We want our community of readers to be engaged in the issue. The site was launched to make it easier for them to participate in the debate and provide their opinions."
He adds, "The idea of launching the website was conceptualised and developed by JWT Chennai. We just briefed them that we wanted to engage the public in this topical issue."
Senthil Kumar, executive creative director, JWT Chennai, tells afaqs!, "Every year, as Jallikattu and Pongal draw nearer, it's a busy time for the lawyers of animal rights activists, who move the Supreme Court asking for a ban on the sport. Thus, we launched the site and developed it to act as a bridge for the readers of TOI in Chennai and everywhere else in India and anyone who's online to vote in this landmark case."
Already, 16,611 people have voted in favour of running it, while 14,269 have voted to ban it.
The site is not just a marketing gimmick; TOI claims that the results of the online poll will be submitted as additional evidence in the Supreme Court.
TOI will promote the URL of the site through its own properties. Apart from the online initiative, there are plans to launch various on-ground activities related to Jallikattu in Chennai and the Madurai region.