Hyderabad: The cockfight sport is banned in Andhra Pradesh but it is not enough to rein in people’s enthusiasm for it, who are all geared up to celebrate the Sankranti festival with the traditional sport. Surpassing past records, it is expected that this year the betting amount during cockfight events across the state may cross Rs 1000 crore.
The craze for the cockfights during Sankranti is not merely limited to Andhra Pradesh. In Hyderabad too, task force police busted a cockfight betting racket and arrested 29 people, who were organising such fights on the terrace of their house. The Jubilee Hills police seized 17 roosters, six short knives, 26 mobile phones and Rs 80,000 cash.
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 game cock and they are then forced to fight until one dies. Not only cruelty to birds, illegal activities like betting and sale of illicit liquor is also witnessed at such events.
With little effect of the ban seen on ground, preparations are going on in full swing, and openly, primarily in East and West Godavari and Krishna districts.
Despite ban, every year such events get support from the politicians. In many cases, even the local MLAs are seen inaugurating the cockfights.
Speaking to media, Bhimavaram MLA Pulaparti Ramanjaneyulu said, "This is our culture and tradition. The court order only says not to use knives. Cockfights happen according to guidelines."
Excited to participate in traditional cockfight sport, M Srinivas, a villager, said, "We wait for this festival. We celebrate with entire family. We prepare and train our roosters for months. We give them healthy food, like almonds, meat etc for this day."
Another villager, Vidhurudu said, "There are people from all over country who come to see this festival. This is our main festival and government should allow cockfights during these three days. It’s a traditional festival and it is going on from decades.”
Following High Court orders, special inspection teams of police and local administration have been formed, particularly in West Godavari, East Godavari, Krishna and Guntur districts to prevent such events and take immediate action if playgrounds are being prepared and cockpits are being formed.
Ravi Prakash, Superintendent of Police, East Godavari district, said: "We will take strict action against people indulging in any criminal act. We have seized over 600 knives. We are creating awareness and appealing people to celebrate the festival with family."
Animal rights activists are urging public to report cases to the police. Raising strong objections, NG Jayasimha, managing Director, Humane Society International said, "There has been ample evidence of cockfights taking place and the government turning a blind eye to them. We will write to Honourable Speaker this time if elected representatives are found participating or inaugurating the cockfights.”