Crores of rupees changed hands as despite ban and several measures by the police, cockfights were organised in different parts of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday, the first day of Sankranti festivities.
Organisers backed by politicians organised cockfight competitions on a large scale in united East Godavari, West Godavari, Guntur and Krishna districts.
Crores changed hands as revellers bet big on the cockfight, which was banned in 2018 on the orders of the Supreme Court.
Like in the past, the organisers built sprawling arenas in towns and villages. Some even installed digital screens to beam the fight between roosters live. They also deployed bouncers and installed CCTV cameras to deal with anyone creating problems.
Wads of currency notes could be seen among the hands of organisers as well-trained cocks with small knives attached to their legs fought amid cheers by the spectators. The fight often ends with the death of one of the two birds.
Hundreds of people participated in the betting at the competitions, which are likely to continue through the night.
The organisers also made arrangements to conduct the competitions under floodlights. People from far-off places and even from neighbouring states of Telangana, Odisha and Tamil Nadu were participating in the betting.
Police cracked down on the illegal competition at few places but at many places, the organisers had the last laugh with the help of local politicians.
The organisers also made special seating arrangements for VIPs and provided food and liquor to the punters and spectators.
Citing it as part of Telugu culture and tradition, the organisers said Sankranti celebrations were incomplete without it.
Leaders of ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) in some places not only inaugurated the cockfight but found fault with the police for their action. They argued that cockfighting is a part of the tradition during Sankranti.
Police had put up banners warning people against violating Supreme Court orders, which banned cockfights. It had also conducted raids and booked cases against some people.
However, with people’s representatives themselves joining the organisers and even inaugurating the game at several places, police decided to go soft. The policemen were either not present in the villages where the game was organised or looked the other way.
Politicians of all hues, businessmen, celebrities and others thronged the cockfight arenas. At a few places, a large number of cars were seen parked.
At Ravulapalem in Ambedkar Konaseema district, MLA Chirla Jaggireddy vented his anger on police when they tried to stop the cockfight. When police tried to remove tents as there was no permission for cockfight and other games being conducted there, Jaggireddy reached there and pulled up a police official.
The MLA asked police what business they have at cockfight fields. He also dared them to book cases against him. He later inaugurated the cockfight .
‘Kodi Pandelu’ or the cockfight competitions are held in various parts of Andhra Pradesh especially in the coastal region every year during Sankranti. Court orders banning the cockfight and steps taken by police had no impact on the organisers.
Bird lovers have been demanding implementation of the Supreme Court order banning cockfight.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India demanded strong measures by the police to implement the court order.
The organisation says inciting and organising animal fights are punishable offences under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.