Several crore rupees were bet on cockfights which began in parts of Andhra Pradesh on Friday despite court orders banning them and warnings by police.
On the first day of the three-day Sankranti festival, cockfights were organised on a large scale in dozens of villages in Krishna, West Godavari and East Godavari district of coastal Andhra.
At a few places, police stopped the cockfights but in a majority of the villages the organisers had a field day.
Punters including businessmen and Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) visited their homes for the festival bet crores of rupees.
According to reports, it is estimated that the total turnover of this year’s cockfights in the two districts would be roughly Rs 1,000 crore, as several venues in the two Godavari districts saw betting ranging from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 10 lakh per game, while other places saw wagers of several thousand rupees.
Many media cameras were also asked to stay away from the fights, as the organisers felt that the publicity did more damage to their game.
Politicians belonging to the ruling Telugu Desam Party (TDP), its ally Bharatiya Janata Party, main opposition YSR Congress Party and others inaugurated the cockfights at some places in the three districts.
One of the Vijayawada ACP’s told DC, that an MLA from Krishna district indirectly gave a warning, saying, "Please do not enter the premises of the cockfights from Friday 2pm onwards. We are not responsible if anything unpleasant situation happens with your arrival as we cannot control the public."
A businessman created a flutter by opening fire in the air at a cockfight venue in Srinivaspuram village in West Godavari district.
The man, identified as Dayakar, opened three rounds from his licensed revolver to formally launch the cockfight. He was detained by police for questioning.
BJP leader Raghurama Krishnamraju, who had challenged in the Supreme Court the orders of Hyderabad High Court banning cockfights, inaugurated a fight in Bheemavaram in West Godavari district.
Citing cockfights as a part of Telugu culture, he said it was a rural sport being organised for centuries during 'Sankranti'.
At few places including at Bheemavaram, the cockfights were organised without knives being tied to the legs of the roosters.
Wads of new currency notes could be seen in the hands of organisers and punters as well-trained cocks with small knives attached to their legs fought amid cheers by hundreds of spectators. The fight often ends with the death of one of the two birds.
Tents and fences were erected in fields and organisers made largescale arrangements for the cockfights.
The bird lovers have long been fighting for a ban on the cockfight to prevent cruelty to animals.
All the attempts by the police and court orders in the past to stop cockfights proved futile as the public representatives, irrespective of their party affiliations, openly support it on the ground that it is a part of Telugu culture.
The Hyderabad High Court on December 26 had upheld the ban on cockfights and directed the Andhra Pradesh Police not to allow it.
Raghurama Krishnamraju had approached the Supreme Court, seeking stay of the High Court order.
The apex court, while refusing to stay the High Court order, directed police not to seize roosters primed for the fights.
The petitioner had contended that the roosters are bred indigenously by farmers as a means of livelihood.
He also claimed that during 2012-13 and 2013-14, nearly 7,000 NRIs came to the state and spent over Rs 1,200 crore to see the cockfights.
On Friday, the Supreme Court refused to pass any fresh orders on cockfights.
Gauri Maullekhi, a member of Animal Welfare Board (AWB), had moved the Supreme Court, seeking directions to the Andhra Pradesh government to implement the High Court order.