On Sankranti, cockfights thrive in Andhra despite ban

January 15th, 2012 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Hyderabad, Jan 15 (IANS) For people in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Sankranti is incomplete without cockfights and, like in the past, a ban could not prevent them from betting crores of rupees on it this time either.

Leading the violation of the ban were powerful politicians of all hues, who consider the cockfight a part of the culture of the coastal Andhra region. The participants included film personalities and businessmen.

State legislators were not only invitees at several cockfights but at least six of them even inaugurated the “gambling sport”. Officially banned cockfights continue to thrive, with people’s representatives at district and village levels themselves organising it in many villages.

An estimated Rs.500 crore changes hands as thousands of people watched the cockfights in the villages of East Godavari, West Godavari and Krishna districts. The fights continue during three-day celebrations, which began Saturday.

The fights between the specially bred and trained cocks are organised in fields as thousands watch them. Three to four inch knives are attached to the cocks’ legs and the fight continues till the death of one of the two birds in each round.

Though police deny permission for the fights, organisers always have the last laugh thanks to the support from ministers and legislators. A state minister intervened when police refused permission to supporters to conduct a fight in East Godavari district.

Vanga Geetha, a member of the assembly from the same district, openly criticised police action against cockfights in a village in her Pitapuram constituency.

Ruling Congress party legislator Jogi Ramesh inaugurated the cockfight in Gudur village Krishna district. Opposition Telugu Desam Party (TDP) legislator J. Venkataramana kickstarted the fight at Chintapadu village in the same district.

Such fights are common in almost every village in Konaseema region of coastal Andhra. Every year, police seize specially bred cocks and money in different places but it continues to thrive thanks to political patronage.

The legislators say since the cockfights are part of the culture, they have to respect people’s sentiments to get votes.

Politicians, businessmen and landlords in luxury cars with heavily-tinted windscreens secretly visit the villages to watch the fights and bet the money.

For the second day, cockfights were organised on a big scale in the villages of West Godavari district. Organisers were seen collecting money from people gathered to watch the fight. A large numbers of cars were seen at the venues.

Several film and television personalities were among the participants in the coastal districts.

With the organisers arranging floodlights, cockfights have turned into a 24-hour game, making it easy for VIPs to reach villages without being noticed by police.

While the Konaseema region is the hub of cockfights, it is also spreading to other parts of the state as indicated by the seizure of cocks by police.

Police on the outskirts of Hyderabad raided two places where the fight was organised. They arrested 25 people, seized 16 birds and Rs.50,000. In neighbouring Nalgonda district, police confiscated six cocks and knives.

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