– Gameness til the End
The administration remains a mute spectator during every festive season in prohibiting cockfights since the festival receives active political patronage.
Gali Nagaraja | The News Minute
Monday, January 15, 2018 – 10:34
Yalamanchili Subba Rao, a farmer from the capital region in Amaravati, galloped into a sprawling pandal with a bulging cash bag in his arms to bet on the rooster of his choice. The ring is surrounded by a huge gallery packed with crowds seated in rows, watching the fun in a mango garden at Pedapaka, 10 kms away from the West Godavari district headquarters in Andhra Pradesh, which beckoned lovers of cockfights from far and wide.
This place is considered a safe haven for the sport since it allegedly received patronage from the local TDP MLA Chintamaneni Prabhakar, who is also the government whip. No police officer ventured into the venue to enforce the law – cockfights are illegal. Even media personnel sought to play it safe.
The ground is circular in shape with enclosures around, and the spilled blood epitomised the valour of the game birds. There was a beehive of activity, with punters letting their birds into the battleground, their masters holding them in arms and caressing their feathers, preparing them for the blood sport.
“I brought Rs 10 lakh. I am sure the MLA’s birds will tear those of rivals into pieces,” says Subba Rao, with a battle cry writ large on his face while comforting his son, a sixth standard student, on a sofa in the front row. They arrived from their village in their SUV, a brand-new car. His 60 acres of agricultural land, bought by the government under the land-pooling scheme for capital construction in his native Mandadam village, reportedly fetched him Rs. 90 crore. In addition, he is receiving Rs. 50,000 per acre per year, as a solatium from the government. Besides, he earned not less than Rs. 3 crore as commission for brokerage in land transactions in the last three years in the capital region, he says.
Subba Rao was egged on by a punter, “MLA’s birds gained an upper hand over those on the other side six times in a row since morning.” An enthused Rao was prepared to bet Rs 25,000 in each round of the game. A ringside view of this writer revealed that betting ranged up to Rs 3 lakh for each game that took place between the owners of the birds in the main ground. Similarly, betting which took place in the galleries, involving onlookers, crossed Rs 25 lakh each time, it is said. An organiser said 20 games took place from noon to evening on Day-1, and it will go on at a similar pace in the next two festive days as well. Each game finished in a span of hardly five minutes, even as another round would begin with a gap of 15-20 minutes which is required to bring the birds into the ground, selecting the “best ones” to pit against each other and arming them with sharp-edged knives.
Gundukolanu plays host to cockfights during Sankranti festival in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.
The sport continued even after sunset under floodlights.
Video-graphing and taking photographs were strictly prohibited. All the three gunmen, apparently attached to the MLA, were at their best enforcing the unwritten law. A visitor who came from Hyderabad was thrashed for trying to shoot the event with his mobile camera. When a student resorted to a similar act, a gunman menacingly approached him in the galleries and saw that the visuals were erased.
The MLA is a multi-tasker. He is said to be rearing birds in his farm in his constituency and allegedly organises the cockfights. Besides, he himself plays the game by letting his birds into the ground.
Koppaka, a nondescript village, has dominated the delta areas like Bhimavaram, Narasapuram and Akiveedu in West Godavari district in cockfights in the recent past, drawing crowds from Guntur, Krishna, East and West Godavari districts. Its fame is credited to Prabhakar’s prowess to keep the officialdom away.
One has to pass through several layers of checking points, heavily guarded by an army of his followers, before reaching the venue. Passes were issued to the visitors under the nose of the MLA and his close aides.
Subba Rao’s son was heard asking his father, “What’s the fun of the fights without knives tied to the cocks?” The boy was obviously referring to the Supreme Court’s direction for the sport.
There were no signs, whatsoever, of executing the Supreme Court’s ruling anywhere in the Krishna and the Godavari delta regions. East Godavari is represented by Home Minister N. Chinnarajappa, and the cockfights with high-staked betting went on in a hassle-free manner in Konaseema region that forms part of his district on the first day. Reports suggested at least Rs 500 crore changed hands in the name of betting in the two Godavari districts on Day-1 and another Rs 100 crore in Krishna and Guntur districts. Attempts to reach out to the West Godavari SP M Ravi Prakash Babu over phone, to know the fate of the high court direction did not yield results.
A punter busy counting cash at cockfights at Gundukolanu.
The administration remains a mute spectator during every festive season in prohibiting cockfights under the Andhra Pradesh Cruelty Against Animals Act, 1960, since it receives active political patronage. There were instances where senior police officers, who attempted to enforce the rule of law during the festival period, were shunted out. Besides, public representatives of the ruling party resorted to protests, seeking to rein in the tough cops so as to ensure that cockfights would go on unchecked.
United News of India
Jan 15 2018 1:42PM
Vijayawada Jan 15 (UNI) The traditional cockfights was organized in the districts of Coastal Andhra Pradesh in a big way on the occasion of Sankranti festival with the participation of Ministers, MLAs, MPs, and Political leaders in it.
The traditional cockfights began on Sunday and reached its peak on Monday and crore of rupees are being staked by punters.
The organisers are holding cockfights by tying sharp blades to the leg of roosters, which was prohibited by the court. It is alleged that police yielding to the pressure of political leaders are intestinally maintaining leniency in curbing the blood sport. The police, who created a lot of ado on till Sunday morning, were seen small in numbers, who were deployed to curb the cockfight.
At Mummidivaram in East Godavari district, which earned dubious distinction for the bloody sport, the cockfights were being organised in a big arena, where giant LED screens was installed and drone cameras were being used to beam live telecast. MLA D Subba Raju participated in the cockfight.
Interestingly, the organizers made own security arrangements to organize the cockfights. Over 1000 cockfights were held on Sunday itself in the 10 arenas at Mummidivaram where about Rs 10 crore was staked by punters either directly or in online. MP T Narasimham inaugurated the event. Talking to media in Tanuku on Monday, Dandu Sambasiva Rao, a cockfight organiser said that cockfights were being held in 450 arenas in various places in East Godavari district itself.
In West Godavari district MLAs Shivarama Raju, Ramamohan Rao and Industrialist Raghurama Raju inaugurated cockfights at various places. Initially, the cockfights were organized without tying sharp blades to the roosters but later organizers started tying blades to the legs of roosters.
Cockfights were also being organized at several villages around Vijayawada city including Penamaluru, Pedapulipaka, Eedputygallu, Godavarru, Gannavaram, Nunna, Kankipadu and Pathapadu in Krishna district.
Sources said that cockfights were being organised in Krishna district in 70 arenas. Cockfights are being held till 0000 hours in the midnight under the floodlights. The roosters were seen fighting ferociously while bleeding profusely.
Interestingly, pig fights are being organised in Anantapuram district. MLA Prabhakar Reddy inaugurated it at the open ground here today. Pig rears brought large number of pigs for the pig fight from Kadapa and Kurnool districts. Large numbers of people thronged to the arena to have a glimpse of rare pig fights. Ram fights were also being organised elsewhere in coastal AP.
Meanwhile other gambling including playcards, guntata and kosu were also being organised in a big way at the cockfight arenas while makeshift bars and restaurants were also seen at the places. Hundreds of cars and two-wheelers were seen parked in the villages.
B.V.S. BHASKAR | The Hindu
January 13, 2018 23:48 IST
Updated: January 14, 2018 09:40 IST
Come Sankranti and coastal Andhra is all set to raise a toast to roosters. On the face of it, there may be nothing eye-pleasing about a gory sport in which cocks get wounded and killed. It, however, seems to be a source of fun for onlookers, a prospective business for vendors, and high-stake gambling for punters.
More than 200 battlegrounds, small and big, for hosting cockfights, rows of roosters in pens seemingly waiting for their turn for the do-or-die battle, gambling dens, liquor outlets, biryani stalls, etc. make it the most happening place in East and West Godavari districts.
Courts may have banned it and animal activists may cry murder. But the three-day annual cock-fights spur a multi-crore betting and blood sport will happen in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh during Bhogi, Sankranti and Kanuma festivals, that normally falls in the second week of January.
Thanks to the involvement of politicians in the game, the police look the other way. While there are no official figures, those in the know-how estimate that the betting sport generated a revenue of about ₹800 crore last year, with a single fight netting the winner ₹1 crore in many rings in East, West Godavari districts and parts of Krishna, Guntur and spread to few places in Telangana.
According to N. Satish of Muramalla, a regular punter, this Sankranti may witness betting at a higher rate than last year as organisers had allegedly held talks with the local policemen for the smooth conduct of the rooster fight. Geddam Vijay, another punter from Razole, said that people bet crores in East and West Godavari districts last year.\
“Some of the organisers tried to prepare a temporary helipad to bring in VIPs to East Godavari in the last two years, but somehow it was abandoned in the last moment. This indicates the backing of political leaders for this sport,” said Ramarao, a social activist from Kakinada, East Godavari.
Though the High Court has asked Chief Secretary and the DGP not to allow cockfight, the fights will go on, sources said. By now, trainers in coastal Andhra villages are examining the strength of the game cocks, especially the ones bred for the fights. The most popular bird varieties are Dega, Pacchakaki, Kakinemali, Myla, Kodi Kaki, Teetuva and Kaki.
“Trainers take the roosters to ponds and train them to swim for strength and stamina,” said Krishnam Raju from Bheemavaram in West Godavari.
COURT BAN, POLICE ACTION
Punters in the East and West Godavari districts are getting ready for rooster fights and betting on roosters in the coming festival season. Last year the Supreme Court stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court order allowing joint teams of police and district administration to seize roosters primed for traditional fights conducted by farmers.
“It is a traditional sport, played from so many years and reflects our culture. I am going to challenge the State High Court in apex court banning rooster fights and inspect teams led by police to barge into ‘any premises’ and seize roosters primed for fights. If no dagger is fixed to the rooster, how one can seize the rooster by barging into any house,” asked Raghurama Krishnam Raju, BJP leader from West Godavari.
“We are strictly going by the High Court order, which has banned rooster fights. We will also implement the apex court directions. We have formed groups in major villages, have taken up campaign in different ways and have spoken to organisers. We have told them to stop the blood-sport,” said M. Ravi Prakash, SP, West Godavari.
“We will book cases against cockfight organisers and those who abet the banned game under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1986, AP Gaming Act, 1974 and other relevant sections,” Vishal Gunni, SP of East Godavari warned.
RELATIVES OF POLITICIANS TAKE PART
In East Godavari, mostly in Konaseema, as well as in different mandals in West Godavari, the relatives of politicians take active part in organising the sport. A nephew of a MLA is making arrangements in Konaseema in big way. “In Muramalla, five acres were acquired on lease for one month, and galleries and barricades have been arranged in the area to conduct the bloodsport. Apart from land, the organisers invest on conducting ‘Gundata’, supply of liquor, food stalls and other arrangements,” said D. Lakshmana Rao from Muramalla.
In many areas public representatives including MP, MLAs, ZPTCs, and MPTCs are running the show behind scenes, and involving in “managing” the police. A police official on the condition of anonymity said that they will enforce law strictly just two days ahead of Sankranti and allow fights succumbing to political influence.
ROOSTERS FROM INDONESIA, TAMIL NADU
Punters started breeding roosters already brought from Indonesia, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka six months ago, to make the sport fiercier, and reportedly shifted their dens to interior areas.
There are many well known places in East and West Godavari districts where this sport is organised, including Godilanka, Godi, Yedurlanka villages Muramalla and I. Polavaram mandals, Vedireswaram, Podagatlapalli in Ravulapalem mandal and Mummidivaram, Malikipuram, Kothapeta, Razole, Sakhinetipalli mandals in East Godavari district.
In West Godavari, the fights will be organised at I. Bhimavaram, Undi, Akiveedu, Tanuku, Veeravasaram, Palakol and Narasapuram areas and in East Godavari Razole, Shivakodu, Amalapuram, Jaggannapeta, P. Gannavaram, Ravulapalem and many other places are famous for it.. In Krishna district, Penamaluru, Kankipadu, Vuyyuru, Kalidindi, Kaikaluru, Mudinepalli, Poranki, Gudivada and other areas are known for the cockfights.
In last two years, VIPs including MP J.C. Diwakar Reddy visited I. Bhimavaram to witness the cockfight and also visited Undi for the same purpose. Other prominent politicians witnessed at the cockfight venues in the previous years were Polavaram MLA M Srinivas Rao, YSRCP MLA P Ravindranath Reddy. In Koppaka, Denduluru MLA Chintamaneni Prabhakar participated in the cockfight. Around 10 MLAs from Telangana State too were reported to have visited the cockfight venues in West Godavari district in the past.
YOUTH FROM HYDERABAD, BENGALURU
“We have already received advance from young software engineers of Hyderabad and Bengaluru to bet on roosters,” said Rama Rao, a punter. Demonetisation had no effect on rooster fights — it only affected the breeding of roosters. “Badam, pista and liquor rates have increased by 30%. After the High Court ban, police took away roosters, on which we spent thousands of rupees,” he said.
HOTEL TARIFF’S HIKED
There is no vacancy for hotel and lodge rooms in Bheemavaram and surrounding areas for the last few days. Most of the youth, VIPs and others booked rooms one month in advance in this sleepy town.
According to manager of Hotel Indu Residency, Bheemavaram, “Bookings started from last month and we are forced to increase of our tariff as others have already done it in advance.” The hotel tariffs which were around ₹1,000 to ₹3,000 have jumped to ₹5,000 to ₹10,000 a day.
However, Navamita Mukharji, NGO representative, which is fighting for the implementation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, has said strict action against organisers and participants of cockfights and disciplinary action against erring officials should be taken.
East Godavari district or Toorpu Godavari zilla is a district in Coastal Andhra region of Andhra Pradesh, India. Its district headquarters is at Kakinada. As of Census 2011, it became the most populous district of the state with a population of 5,151,549. Rajahmundry and Kakinada are the two largest cities in the Godavari districts in terms of population.
West Godavari district or Paschima Godavari Jilla is one of the 13 districts in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The district is situated in Coastal Andhra region of the state. The administrative headquarters of the district is situated at Eluru. As of 2011 census of India, the district has an area of 7,742 km2 (2,989 sq mi) and a population of 39,36,966. It is bounded by Krishna district on the west, East Godavari district on the east, Bay of Bengal on the south and the state of Telangana on the north.