In a freak mishap, a 55-year-old man from Andhra Pradesh died after a sharp knife that was tied to the leg of a rooster pierced him, during a cockfight in the state's West Godavari district.
According to reports, the incident took place at Pragadavaram village in Chintalapudi mandal and the man has been identified as Venkateswara Rao, a punter.
Rao was reported to be holding on to the bird ahead of a fight, when it made a sudden attempt to escape from his hands. In a bid to hold on to it, Rao was pierced by the sharp knife tied to its leg, and later succumbed to his injuries.
Crores of rupees exchange hands each year as cockfights continued unabated in several parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh during Sankranti, despite orders by the Supreme Court and warnings by police.
The fight is usually between two birds which are especially bred for the purpose, with the match ending when one bird dies or is fatally injured. Sharp knives are attached to the bird's legs, making the fight bloodier.
It was in 2016 that the High Court had banned cockfights. The Supreme Court upheld the ban. However, there has hardly been any impact of it on the ground as police continue to have a tough time in checking the 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 also allege that cockfights continue unabated under the patronage of elected public representatives while law enforcement agencies turn a blind eye.
The police, on their part, deploy drones each year and register cases and detain several people.
This year, a total of 540 cases have been booked and 1,494 persons were taken into custody, in Krishna district alone.
Several cases have also been registered in the districts of East and West Godavari, where cockfights are most popular.