Cockfight ban in Andhra but 'fighter' birds sale on OLX ahead of Sankranti
Despite the Supreme Court upholding the Hyderabad High Court's order prohibiting cockfights, organisers in the state seem to pay no heed to the ban. With Sankranti fast approaching, many of the 'fighter' birds are being put up for sale on online classified websites like OLX. The prices range from below Rs 5,000 to Rs 25,000 for 'trained' cocks.
The sellers are from various locations in the state like Vijayawada, Kadapa, Visakhapatnam, Kakinada, Rajahmundry, Guntur, Nellore and Chittoor. Many were also selling multiple birds, for a 'fixed price'. The sport, is a 'tradition' for many people living in rural areas of coastal Andhra, and extensive betting is also done, with several crore rupees exchanging hands every year.
The fight is usually between two birds, specially bred for the purpose, with the match ending when one bird dies or is fatally injured. In many cases, three to four inch knives are attached to the cocks' legs, making the fight bloodier, as hundreds gather to watch. As the festival comes closer, the organisers in the Konaseema region and both districts of Godavari (East and West) identify 'arenas'. These are usually remote or interior farmlands, that are levelled for the fights. With authorities cracking down on them over the past couple of years, organisers seem to have upgraded their tactics too.
According to reports, most birds are bought online, and trained in island villages off the Godavari coast. “These island villages are safe to carry out training. Or, we have to bribe cops who conduct raids during festival season every year. The big fights will start from second week of January," an organiser had earlier told TOI. With the High Court warning cops to take strict action, and chances of bribery decreasing, the organisers have adopted other methods. Quoting sources, another TOI report states that drone cameras would be deployed two kilometres away from the arena, to keep a lookout for cops, and give the organisers ample time to escape. All this, despite the legal ban.
“We will register bind-over cases against the organisers and conduct counselling to the punters,” Ravi Prakash, Superintendent of Police, Kakinada had earlier said. Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court upheld the Hyderabad High Court's order prohibiting cockfights. The ruling came after Andhra Pradesh BJP leader K Raghu Ramakrishna Raju filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court, which sought a stay on the Hyderabad High Court's ban order. Raju argued that cockfights were a traditional sport and the HC order infringed on an individual's freedom to pursue a 'sport' of their choice. "In fact, the court ruling is unconstitutional and hence should be declared null and void," his counsel was quoted as saying. The ban has been reiterated previously by the Bombay High Court, Madras High Court and the Supreme Court as well. Cockfighting is banned under the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960, and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974. However, in its ruling last week, the SC stated that the roosters that were seized by the authorities should be released, while adding that officials could still seize knives and other instruments that were used for the fights.