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Hillocks and jungles: Preferred spot for cockfight organisers

The arrival of Sankranti season heralds a wave of excitement among the lovers of cockfights, who dominate the rural side, clandestinely operating the prohibited game in forest locations and fields abutting hillocks and jungles, to escape police raids.
 
This game, sporadic in the middle of a year, takes the centrestage with the advent of winter, and goes on till Maha Sivaratri, touching its peak during Sankranti. 
 
Rooster fights find big patronage in Chittoor district, not only from local people, but also from border villages in Tamil Nadu, and neighbouring Kadapa district. A number of forested villages nestled in Bhakarapeta to Yerravaripalem areas in Seshachalam biosphere hold substantial history of cockfights since decades. 
 
On the eastern side, cockfights dominate the rural side in Satyavedu, Nagalapuram, Varadaiahpalem, B.N. Kandriga and some other mandals bordering Tamil Nadu. The western side of Kuppam and Palamaner is also vulnerable to the bloodsport.
 
With the start of harvesting of several prime crops along the inter-State zone, hundreds of farmers and farm workers and petty traders show keen interest in cockfights. 
 
Compared to a decade ago, the game organisers are now a sophisticated lot, using social media groups and mobile phones to spread the information and lure potential punters as well. From a few thousand rupees in the 1980s, now the stakes in the game have run into crores of rupees.
 
No fear of law
 
Interestingly, the participants seem to have lost all fear of the police in several areas as it would only invite milder punishments and negligible penalties under the Gaming Act. The organisers and the betting parties will have a gala time at cosy locations, enjoying the bloodsport amid serving of biryani and some of the choicest dishes and liquor.
 
The experienced organisers would deposit the cash collected from the clients at reliable ends far away from the venues. They also prefer to walk the distances towards the forests rather than reaching the arena on motorbikes, in order to avoid seizures by the police. The number of persons involved in the game and the number of cases remain disproportionate to the amounts, roosters and vehicles seized.
 
On the flip side, it would be technically not possible for the police to seize the roosters, who remain mostly injured and losing a final battle.
According to the Chittoor police records; there has been no respite in the cockfight menace since five years. In 2015, 241 persons were arrested in 44 cases, with a seizure of ₹3.5 lakh, followed by 343 persons arrested in 47 cases with ₹2.10 lakh seized in 2016; 108 persons arrested in 34 cases with a seizure of ₹1.65 lakh in 2017; 389 persons arrested in 56 cases with a seizure of ₹5.4 lakhs; and showing a jump with 406 members and 64 cases with ₹4.44 lakhs in 2019.

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