With the Centre bowing to pressure from Tamil Nadu and allowing the controversial bull-taming sport Jallikattu to be held in the poll-bound state, the public and politicians in Andhra Pradesh too have raised their voice, calling for the popular Kodipandelu or cock-fight to be held without any restrictions during next week’s Sankranti festival.
At present, Kodipandelu is prohibited under the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals Act, 1960, and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974. Thousands of roosters fight to their death in the traditional rural recreational sport, with hundreds of crores of betting money also changing hands during the games.
The state police submitted an affidavit in the Hyderabad high court, which said that it would take the steps necessary to prevent Kodipandelu. West Godavari district superintendent of police Bhaskar Bhushan told HT that the cock-fights are prohibited. “There are laws in place preventing cruelty towards animals and against gambling.
Cock-fights are illegal and people are advised not to indulge in it,” he said.
“We will be acting tough against the violators. We have bound over a thousand people already. A two minute-documentary appealing against cockfights is also being telecast through local cable operators,” Bhushan said.
Animal rights activists have demanded that the police must ensure the enforcement of the law and prosecute the offenders to serve as a deterrent.
“If the AP government allows the cockfights now, it would amount to contempt of the court,” said N G Jayasimha, member of the Animal Welfare Board of India.
However, the court, which heard the matter on Thursday, has passed no specific orders on the same.
“Over 80% of the people in the Godavari district support the sport, including women. And gamblers amongst them would not be even 10%,” said BJP leader Raghurama Krishnam Raju, who had approached the courts asking the cockfights to be allowed. “There is no order pronounced by the court banning the sport. All I am asking is to respect the cultural sentiments of the people. Unlike the bulls or cows, these are birds which would be killed anyway,” he said.
Raju has found support from several MLAs from the region. Chintamaneni Prabhakar, a Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MLA from the West Godavari district, took a procession to the DIG’s office last year, appealing for the sport to be allowed. “As Kodipandelu is a part of tradition here, we requested that the sport be allowed to continue,” he had said.
Bhimavaram in West Godavari district is the nerve centre of the sport. Telangana IT minister KT Rama Rao, speaking at a recent event, had jokingly said that if the Telangana Rashtra Samithi were to make its foray into Andhra Pradesh, he would contest the Bhimavaram seat. “The trick (to win) is very simple – just promise that Kodipandelu would be legalised,” he said.
While local leaders have openly come out in support for the sport, several MPs and ministers have done so on the sly. In 2015, the Chandrababu Naidu-led TDP government was accused of turning a blind eye to the sport last year as a mark of gratitude to people who voted it into power.