A massive protest rally was held against a ban on Kambala, a traditional buffalo racing sport, in Karnataka’s Dakshin Kannada district on Saturday on the lines of the successful Jallikattu stir in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
Protestors took out a procession in the district’s Moodabidri town. Thousands gathered to witness around 50 pairs of buffaloes being paraded on one-kilometre-long Kambala track from Swaraj Maidan in Moodabidri to the Kadalakere area.
The sport was banned in November by the Karnataka high court in an interim order while hearing a case filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the largest animal rights organisations in the world. The next hearing on the case is on Monday.
Kambala is a traditional annual buffalo race held in marshy fields in the coastal districts of the state.
Banning of the sport triggered a protest, though opinions in the state over the tradition were divided.
A host of prominent persons from the state recently criticised the tradition. Chairman of the Kannada Development Authority SG Siddaramaiah said last week Kambala was played mainly for the enjoyment of landlords.
Freedom fighter HS Doreswamy said buffaloes are tortured for the pleasure of men. Novelist and Dalit icon Devanuru Mahadeva said Kambala can be encouraged as a sport only if some ritualistic aspects of the event are removed. He was objecting to Dalits being made to run on the ‘slush table’ before the commencement of the sport to ensure the track is not “sabotaged”.
On Saturday’s protest rally, pro- Kambala leaders came down heavily on those opposing the 800-year-old tradition.
President of the Kambala Academy Gunapala Kadamba said those opposing the sport do not understand it and its long history.
“Let them come and see if animals are tortured,” he said.
As anti-ban protest growing momentum, politicians cutting across party lines have come out in support of the sport. Chief minister Siddaramaiah on Friday even hinted that if required his government would table a bill in the state assembly to “legalise the rural sport”.
Tamil Nadu witnessed a mass protest earlier this month over banning of Jallikattu, prompting the state government to table a bill in the assembly to legalise the traditional bull-taming sport.