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Punch with a potent cocktail

Buffalos and birds trained to fight have been traditionally given opium-laced food, reports Rahul Karmakar.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 16:16 IST

It isn't exactly screwdriver or Bloody Mary that roosters, prime bulls, buffaloes and a bird called bulbul get for showdowns that have marked the mid-January Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu festival for ages. But the concoction they are administered — alcohol mixed with marijuana and other locally-available herbal steroids — do pack a punch often with gory outcomes. Animal rights activists have been protesting the practice, but the conservatives do not want anyone to upset the tradition.

"Buffalos and birds trained to fight have been traditionally given opium-laced food," said Sailen Das, one of many organisers of 'bulbuli jooj' (duel of bulbuls) and 'moh jooj' (buffalo fight) in Morigaon near here. He admits to some aberrations. Alcohol has replaced the hard-to-procure opium - but "one has to stick to tradition".

Sangeeta Goswami, local representative of the People For Animals, believes hiding behind tradition is an excuse to promote cruelty against animals. "We have been campaigning against doping birds and animals to make them violent," she said.

Animal rights activists, however, have had limited success with antijooj campaigns. Reasons: A bird fight or buffalo fight invariably entails betting; besides, there are freebies to be won. Other than money, bettors also stand to win a live goat, kilos of fish or a pair of chicken. This idea has been borrowed by meat, poultry and fish-sellers, apparently hit by a combination of bird flu and vegetarianism.

The first prize is a live goat followed by 3-5 kg of fish (depending on the species), a pair of ducks, chickens and pigeons. There are bonus prizes too — a crate of eggs or five kilos of aromatic rice to go with the mutton, chicken or fish dish.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 16:16 IST