Banned, but cockfighting spikes in coastal Andhra Pradesh during Sankranti
Despite the Supreme Court upholding a ban on cockfighting, people in coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh organised this bloodsport on large scale during the three-day Sankranti festivities that concluded Tuesday.
During the festivities there was also a spike in betting and gambling which are illegal in Andhra Pradesh.
Despite the administration’s claims that were taking stringent action to curb cockfights, people in Krishna, West Godavari, East Godavari and parts of Visakhapatnam districts conducted their traditional winter sport without any hurdles. Knives and blades were sold openly and organisers were found tying sharp knives to roosters’ legs before the fight – all in front of the media.
Hundreds of arenas were arranged amidst lush green fields to for the cockfights. Tents were erected with seating arrangements for thousands of people coming from different parts of the state.
“Like in the past, this time, too, a large number of people from Telangana and Rayalaseema came to our villages to witness and participate in the cockfights,” said S Ayyappa, one of the organisers at Bhimavaram town, which accounts for the largest number of cockfights in the state.
According to Ayyappa, the total revenue from the cockfights and allied activities could be more than Rs 1,000 crore in the four districts in the last three days. The allied activities include makeshift casinos for high-stakes gambling and card games, sale of liquor, running of road-side restaurants, snack-bars and organising and recording dances.
Though the Andhra Pradesh government had given an affidavit to the court in the past listing out a series of actions to stop cockfights, they were hardly implemented at the ground level.
According to reports, the police have filed 965 cases against organisers of cockfights and gamblers in four coastal districts under the AP Gaming Act, 1974 and Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960.
Krishna district superintendent of police Sarvasreshtha Tripathi said that 382 cases were booked in the district and nearly 1,000 people were arrested for participating in cockfights and gambling. Police also seized a large number of knives and Rs 2.82 lakh in cash. In East Godavari district, 326 cases were booked and over 1100 people were arrested.
Animal rights activists describe these actions as an eye-wash. “The police are trying to wash off their hands by making a few arrests and seizing some petty cash from the road side organisers. They do not take action against political leaders and big businessmen, who indulge in betting of crores of rupees on cockfights and gambling,” alleged animal rights activist and advocate Shreya Paropkari. “They are misleading people by misinterpreting the court orders.”
Under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, the penalty ranges from Rs 10 to Rs 50 for first offence and Rs 100 for the second offence. “Those arrested pay this nominal penalty and come out on bails, as it is a non-cognizable offence. But what the authorities are ignoring is that organising cockfights by setting up arenas and holding of casinos etc is a cognizable and non-bailable offence. The police can take action under these sections,” Paropkari argued.