Despite a ban, the stage is set for the traditional sport of cockfight during the festival of Sankranti, primarily in East and West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh. This comes after High Court had upheld the ban on cockfighting on December 26, 2016, and had directed Andhra Pradesh and Telangana governments to strictly ensure no cockfights take place.
However, preparations are in full swing in private farms where such events are held. The fencing of the fighting arena is complete where cocks are pitted against each other.
Like Jallikattu, the traditional sport was banned due to cruel and illegal conduct of cockfights. For increased entertainment value, a sharp knife is attached to the claw of the gamecock. The cocks are then forced to fight until one dies or is so critically injured and is unable to stand up. Not only cruelty to birds, illegal activities like betting, running into thousands of crores, and sale of illicit liquor is also witnessed at such events.
The demand for the roosters is yet again high, with OLX website selling well trained and healthy cocks for up to Rs 2 lakh. The Humane Society International, India has also written to OLX website to drop advertisement on the sale of roosters, since the practice of cockfighting was pronounced illegal in India.
The district administration and police teams are creating awareness drives against cockfights and warning villagers with strict actions. In many districts police have registered cases against organizers.
Every year businessmen, politician and celebrities from all parts of the country, flock to Andhra Pradesh to participate in cockfights during Sankranti festival. Last year, a member of Parliament from the ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh, sparked a controversy by inaugurating an illegal cockfighting event.
The Tamil Nadu government has come out strongly in support of Jallikattu in the state and advocates its conduct. The Andhra Pradesh government, however, says it will obey court orders. But with roosters and punters ready for the game, nobody seems to be taking the ban seriously on the ground.