Several crore rupees exchanged hands as cockfights continued unabated in several parts of coastal Andhra Pradesh during Sankranti, despite court orders and warnings by police. On the second day of the festival on Tuesday, the cockfights were conducted across Krishna, Guntur, East Godavari and West Godavari districts.
In what seemed to be a clear jibe at law-enforcing authorities, the organisers arranged special tents, erected barricades in open places, installed LED screens and made specially-bred roosters fight with small knives or blades tied to their legs. The fight often ends with the death of one of the two birds.
People including women and children thronged these arenas in large numbers to watch the cockfights which they consider a part of the harvest festival.
Punters, including those who came from Hyderabad, Bengaluru and other cities, bet on the roosters. Punters bet anywhere between Rs 25,000 to Rs 2 lakh on each rooster.
Like in the past, politicians including MLAs encouraged the cock-fights, with some even inaugurating the event. There was no impact of the police warnings on the ground as the organisers faced no hurdle in making all the arrangements.
Police officials in some places allowed cockfights on the condition that they were organised in a traditional manner without tying knives to the roosters and no gambling took place. But this request was flouted openly.
The organisers even deployed bouncers and erected fencing to control the crowds. At some places, they arranged liquor. Food stalls set up near the venue did brisk business.
Director General of Police R.P. Thakur had directed Superintendents of Police of all the 13 districts to prevent cockfights and other illegal activities.
Last year, the Hyderabad High Court expressed its displeasure over the failure of authorities in Andhra Pradesh to prevent cockfights.
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.
Humane Society International (HIS) India said that 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.