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Banned By Law, Cockfighting Spawns A Multi-Crore Betting Business In Andhra Pradesh

A bloody affair.

13/01/2017 10:15 AM IST | Updated 13/01/2017 12:07 PM IST
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Parivartan Sharma / Reuters

As Tamil Nadu is struggling to impose a ban on Jallikattu, the bull-taming sport played around the Pongal festival every year, people in Andhra Pradesh are boldly defying a court order to stop cockfighting, another traditional recreation, during Sankranti.

In spite of the Hyderabad High Court's order last month, upholding the ban on the blood sport in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, reports said roosters were on sale on e-commerce platform OLX for exorbitant sums of money. OLX removed the advertisements after the matter was brought to the company's attention and claimed its executives are combing the portal to excise any new posts.

Cockfighting is part of many cultures across the world and involves two roosters pitted against each other, usually in a fight unto death. If one of the birds is not killed in the process of the combat, it is surely left mortally wounded. Knives are tied to the feet of the fighter cockerels and bystanders place huge bets on the contestants — amounts to the tune of several crores.

According to reports, the minimum bets placed on the fighter birds this year is no less than a crore Indian rupees. The business runs to the tune of ₹600-900 crores in just over three days during which the sport is played, the bidding going as high as ₹15 crore per game.

Apart from rich farmers and landowners, the stakes are placed by NRIs, who are undeterred by the Central government's move to demonetise high-value currency notes and the consequent cash crunch in the nation's economy. Bank transfers and other online modes of payment, including on mobile apps, are allegedly being used to pay up for the games.

Raising a cock fit for fighting costs about ₹1 lakh, which has gone up by over 150% from last year's average expense of ₹40,000 per bird. Nearer the time of the festival, organisers in the Konaseema region and both districts of Godavari (East and West) begin to scout for safe havens where the sport can be played without fear of legal reprisal. The police are allegedly bribed and in cahoots with the organisers.

Cockfighting is banned under the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960, and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974 but it has run into legal wrangles. While animal rights activists deplore the cruelty inherent in it, supporters of the sport hail it as integral to the culture of their state.

Recently, a BJP leader from Andhra Pradesh, K Raghu Ramakrishna Raju, filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court, which sought a stay on the Hyderabad High Court's ban, arguing that the latter order infringed on an individual's freedom to pursue a 'sport' of their choice. While his counsel termed the ruling "unconstitutional" and asked it to be "declared null and void", the apex court upheld the high court ruling.

A fresh plea, filed recently by activist Gauri Maullekhi, was mentioned by senior advocate Siddharth Lights to the Supreme Court, pointing out that the high court order banning cockfights in Andhra Pradesh was not being followed by the state administration. But the Supreme Court refused to pass any fresh order to stop cockfights, according to a PTI report.

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