– Gameness til the End
Kamalakara Rao,TNN| Jan 11, 2015, 01.49 AM IST
VISAKHAPATNAM: This is the first Sankranti of residuary Andhra Pradesh post bifurcation, and the stakes in the traditional coastal AP sport of cock-fighting are higher than ever before. If around Rs 800 crore was estimated to have been bet on roosters during Sankranti last year, this year the bets are already spiraling northwards and are expected to touch a whopping Rs 1,000 crore.
According to sources, cockfights involving specially-trained roosters fitted with metal gaffs are expected to witness massive bets from January 13, a day before Bhogi as part of the three-day festival for which people hailing from coastal AP flock home from all over the world. Bets are expected to be placed in the range of Rs 1 lakh to Rs 50 lakh.
Even though politicians and supporters from different political parties are usually involved in organizing the duels, betting is anticipated to be higher this year as supporters of the ruling TDP are learnt to be keen on celebrating it in a big way with the party’s return to power after a decade in exile.
In fact, TDP and BJP leaders this year have demanded that cockfight be legalised as it has been a tradition in rural areas during Sankranti for centuries. The TDP and BJP MPs have also extended support to villagers in Dwaraka Tirumala mandal when they staged dharna and blocked traffic demanding that the West Godavari police release all those arrested recently on the charge of organising cockfights.
Local TDP leaders argue that as long as betting and use of blades and knives are not involved, cockfight is perfectly legal and should not be banned. TDP MPs Maganti Babu and M Murlimohan and BJP MP G Ganga Raju have supported the villagers.
Some petitioners also approached the Hyderabad High Court seeking lifting of the ban and when it was turned down the appellants approached the Supreme Court, which has asked the Animal Welfare Board of India to implead itself in the case.
Apart from NRIs, politicians from Telangana and AP, including MLAs, MPs and ministers, high-profile businessmen and film personalities are also expected to land in coastal Andhra during Sankranti to catch a glimpse of the violent clash between two birds. The roosters are trained for years and fed a special diet including almonds, mutton or chicken kheema, tender coconut water, onions and eggs. The cost of each rooster ranges between Rs 40,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
While Rajahmundry, Kakinada, Amalapuram, Razole, Samalkota, Peddapuram, Mummidivaram, Karapa, Katrenikona are famous for the cockfights in East Godavari district, I Bheemavaram, Bheemavaram Town, Vempa, Mahadevapatnam, Juvvalapalem, Jangareddigudem, Lingapalem, Naidugudem and Kokkirapadu in West Godavari district are the venues for cockfights. In Krishna district, Muvva, Nuzvid, Mylavaram, Bantumilli, Nagayalanka, Avanigadda and Kankipadu are famous. Payakaraopeta in Visakhapatnam district is also known to host the rooster fights.
This year cockfight organisers are expecting minimal police interference in East Godavari, which is the native district of home minister N Chinarajappa.
Meanwhile, a senior police officer at Kakinada, said, “To be frank, our raids are just an eyewash. We do it only for our records. Our men (police) have sometimes faced physical attacks from the organisers. More importantly, we have to keep mum this year as our boss (home minister) stays put in the district during the festival time,” the officer said.
However, while admitting that cockfights are generally held in the coastal areas during Sankranti despite strict warnings, Chinarajappa said: “We will file cases against the organisers and are awaiting the Supreme Court verdict over the issue.”
Gopal R Surabattula, secretary, Kakinada-based Animal Rescue Organisation, said, “Sankranti is a dangerous time for animal rescuers like us. Unless there is strict implementation of the provisions of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act by police, gambling will continue unabated. We have faced attacks from cockfight organisers during previous raids.”