Vijayawada: Millions of rupees changed hands as cockfights were organised in many parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh during Sankranti celebrations on Saturday despite ban and the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
Hundreds of people thronged at the cockfights organised in towns and villages across Krishna, Guntur, East Godavari, West Godavari districts.
In blatant violation of court orders passed earlier and poking fun at law-enforcing agencies, the cockfights were organised on a massive scale.
Like every year, millions of rupees changed hands as the organisers made specially-bred roosters fight with small knives or blades tied to their legs.
The organisers made special seating arrangements for those participating in betting and for spectators.
Backed by powerful politicians and businessmen, the organisers made all the arrangements by erecting huge tents, barricades and supply of food and liquor.
People, including women and children, thronged the arenas in large numbers to watch the cockfights which they consider a part of the harvest festival. The fight often ends with the death of one of the two birds.
Hundreds of people were seen flocking to the cockfight venue at Edupugallu in Krishna district. Huge tents were pitched in the agriculture fields to organise the cockfights.
It was a huge fair as people in cars and on two-wheelers were seen heading to the venue. From few hundreds to lakhs were bet on roosters.
Punters from other states joined
The cockfights were organised at various places in and around Vijayawada. Similar events were organised in Gudivada, Kaikaluru, Jaggyapeta, Nuzvidu, Nandigama, Chanderlapadu, Mopidevi, Avanigadda and other places in Krishna district.
At few places MLAs and local public representatives attended the events. The organisers set up VIP galleries for politicians, businessmen and other VIPs.
Punters from not just neighbouring villages and districts but even Telangana and other states participated in the betting.
There was no impact of the police warnings on the ground as the organisers faced no hurdle in making all the arrangements.
The organisers even deployed bouncers and erected fencing to control the crowds. At many venues it was not just cockfights. Other gambling games were also organised and people were seen openly playing these games. Food stalls set up near the venues did brisk business.
A Jana Sena leader along with some villagers stopped cockfight in Mandapaka village in Tanaku mandal in West Godavari district. Ramachandra Rao opposed the organising of cockfight in the village and released roosters from the clutches of organisers.
It was in 2016, that the High Court had banned cockfights. The Supreme Court upheld the ban. However, there was hardly any impact of it on the ground as police failed to check the bloody sport.
Animal rights activists point out that as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974, cockfights are illegal.
They say despite court orders, the cockfights continued unabated, reportedly under the patronage of elected public representatives while law enforcement agencies turned blind eye to this lawlessness.