Crores change hands as cockfights continue in Andhra despite ban

Vijayawada, Jan 15 (IANS) Court orders and warnings by police had no impact on cockfights as the violent sport was openly organised in parts of coastal Andhra on the occasion of Sankranti with crores or rupees changing hands.

The rich and famous bet on the bloody fight among specially-bred cocks as hundreds watched it in several villages in East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna districts with full patronage of local politicians.

Citing it as part of the Telugu culture and tradition, the organisers said Sankranti celebrations were incomplete without it. Leaders of various political parties and celebrities too joined the crowd of spectators.

Tents were erected in fields and organisers made large scale arrangements for the cockfights, which continued for the second day. Many organisers even conducted the cockfights under floodlights and arranged LED screens to provide a clear view to spectators.

It is estimated that over Rs.500 crore were bet in the two Godavari districts and parts of Krishna this year.

Police had put up banners warning people against violating Supreme Court orders, which banned cockfights. It had also conducted raids and booked cases against some people.

However, with people’s representatives themselves joining the organisers and even inaugurating the game at several places, police decided to go soft. The policemen were either not present in the villages where the game was organised or looked the other way.

Film producer Kodandarami Reddy was among those who turned out to watch a cockfight in one village near Eluru in West Godavari district. “I don’t know why they want to ban it. This is a tradition. People come together for two to three days and enjoy. This is also nothing new,” he told reporters.

Wads of currency notes could be seen among the hands of organisers as well-trained cocks with small knives attached to their legs fought amid cheers by the spectators. The fight often ends with the death of one of the two birds.

Bird lovers have long been fighting for a ban on the cockfight to prevent cruelty to animals. The Supreme Court had last year issued orders banning it along with other violent games organised during Sankranti.

All the attempts by police in the past to stop cockfights proved futile as the public representatives, irrespective of their party affiliations, openly support it on the ground that it is part of Telugu culture.

A group of public representatives have even written to union home secretary to bring cockfights under the purview of a proposed ordinance to allow Jallikattu or bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu.

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