The Karnataka assembly on Monday passed a Bill amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which paves the way for the conduct of Kambala, the buffalo racing sport.
The Karnataka High Court had put an injunction against the conduct of Kambala in November, in a case filed by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The Bill will now have to be cleared by the legislative council, after which it will go to the Central government for approval.
Piloting the Bill, animal husbandry minister A Manju said Kambala was a traditional folk sport and involved no cruelty to animals and it was a “popular will” that it be allowed.
A committee headed by law minister TB Jayachandra had recommended that Kambala, as also bullock cart race, be permitted as no betting or cruelty to animals was involved and it related to agriculture and farmers’ beliefs, Manju said.
“We want to thank all the political leaders, who came together to pass this Bill,” president of the Kambala Academy Gunapala Kadamba said.
“All the parties came together because this is the traditional sport of the district,” Kadamba added. “There is also a responsibility on us now to ensure that we convince people that there is no cruelty meted out to the animals.”
The bill noted the significant role played by traditional sports events Kambala and Bulls race or Bullock cart race in preserving and promoting traditions and culture among the people in the state.
It also took note of their vital role in ensuring survival and continuance of native breeds of cattle in deciding to exempt the conduct of the races from the ambit of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.
The of conduct of Kambala is still subject to the injunction order of the high court.
Union minister for statistics and programme implementation DV Sadananda Gowda said he will take up the matter with the Union government. “This move was initiated by me when I was the chief minister of the state. I will take up the matter here,” he said.
“We are hoping the central government will show the same urgency they showed in the case of Jallikattu,” Kadamba added. “If not, we are willing to go to Delhi to press for our demands.”
PETA expressed its anguish against the passing of the Bill. It said 65 non-cognisable complaints and one FIR were filed at just three events inspected by the animal welfare board during Kambala events in 2014 and 2015.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, PETA said: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Kambala Committees and various Kannada outfits had recently held protests against the ban and demanded it be allowed.
The bullock cart races are held in parts of North Karnataka and Shivamogga and Kambala in the coastal districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada.
Kambala, held from November to March, involves a pair of buffaloes tied to the plough and anchored by one person.
They are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins. It is believed to be held to propitiate the Gods for a good harvest, besides being a recreational sport for farmers.