The Vijayawada police on Saturday said that they had booked around 160 cases against those organising illegal cockfights in and around the city and said that over 250 people who have had a past history of indulging in the bloodsport, had been taken into preventive custody.
Speaking to reporters, Vijayawada Commissioner Dwaraka Tirumala Rao said that cockfights can be conducted only if the organisers do not attach knives to the feet of the birds, and no gambling takes place.
"Apart from court judgments that allowed betting in a few games of skill in the past, gambling stands illegal in all forms of sport, including cockfighting," Tirumala Rao said at the press meet.
Meanwhile, the police is having a tough time cracking down on the sport, especially in the twin Godavari district as local organisers enjoy the backing of senior politicians.
Every year, the Hyderabad High Court pulls up the Andhra Pradesh government and directs it to ensure that no cockfights are held in the state, as per the Supreme Court's directions.
The sport, is a 'tradition' for many people living in rural areas of coastal Andhra. Every year, several crore rupees change hands as cockfights are organised on a massive scale during week-long Sankranti holidays. Politicians of all hues, businessmen, and celebrities also participate in such cockfights
The fight is usually between two birds, specially bred for the purpose, with the match ending when one bird dies or is fatally injured. In many cases, three to four-inch knives are attached to the cocks' legs, making the fight bloodier, as hundreds gather to watch.
Animal rights activists say the authorities have always failed to implement court orders on the matter. They point out that as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974, cockfights are illegal.