Defying the police crackdown and the chief minister’s order banning the bloodthirsty sport, a village in Andhra Pradesh is readying a ground to hold a cockfight – only that they appealed for permission claiming they would be holding a kabaddi match.
Vempa, a small village in West Godavari’s Narsapuram, has a population of less than 7,000 people. It has quietly been holding cockfights by claiming that it is hosting other sports while getting the required permissions.
Paidiraju V*, a postgraduate from Narsapuram said, "This is not a new tactic though. Organisers will get permission announcing sports competitions like kabaddi, volleyball and cricket, but, at the end of the day, the ground will host fights between roosters."
He added, “This is not a recent tradition, but has been in practice for a long time. Just like jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, no political party will oppose it, since it is a part of Telugu culture, part of Sankaranthi celebrations.”
When TNM contacted T Prabhakar Babu, Narsapur Deputy Superintendent of Police, he said, "As soon as we received the information, a special team rushed to the spot, along with Bhimavaram revenue officers, who had given permission to host kabaddi competitions in Vempa village."
In West Godavari district, officials have formed 60 teams, comprising police, revenue officials and concerned citizens, to crackdown on the sport in the wake of a High Court warning.
Prabhakar also said that in each police station, organisers who were caught in the past were served a bind over notices under IPC 110 (e).
As of Friday, in Bhimavaram town alone, 26 arrests have been made. Police are keeping a tight vigil, with several roosters and knives being seized.
When TNM asked if cockfight arrangements are being made using the front of holding sports competition, he said, "Revenue authorities have given permission only for sports like kabaddi and volleyball and will make sure the grounds are used for that purpose.”
He added, "In Vempa, we have set up a police picket to prevent any unlawful activities.”
However, Vempa villagers recently passed a resolution seeking the governments' consent to celebrate Telugu culture – read cockfights – in the presence of Bhimavaram MLA, Pulaparthi Ramanja-neyulu, Undi MLA, Vetukuri Venkata Siva Rama Raju, and other public representatives.
TNM's multiple attempts to reach the lawmakers for their comments in this regard proved futile.
While the twin Godavari districts are well-known for cockfights, the sport is also popular in other places such as Krishna, Ongole and Nellore.
It is estimated that betting worth nearly Rs 100 crore on the sport is taking place across districts.
Cockfights are banned under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Andhra Pradesh Gaming Act, 1974.
On the other hand, reports suggests that Kakinada MP Thota Narasimham and Pithapuram MLA SVSN Varma, both leaders of the TDP, took part in a cockfight as part of the Janmabhoomi Maa Vooru programme on Thursday in Pithapuram town.
It can be recalled that CM Chandrababu Naidu has warned his party lawmakers to keep away from cockfights, saying that their involvement will cost them party tickets in coming elections.
* Names have been changed to protect privacy.