Come Sankranti and coastal Andhra is all set to raise a toast to roosters. On the face of it, there may be nothing eye-pleasing about a gory sport in which cocks get wounded and killed. It, however, seems to be a source of fun for onlookers, a prospective business for vendors, and high-stake gambling for punters.
More than 200 battlegrounds, small and big, for hosting cockfights, rows of roosters in pens seemingly waiting for their turn for the do-or-die battle, gambling dens, liquor outlets, biryani stalls, etc. make it the most happening place in East and West Godavari districts.
Courts may have banned it and animal activists may cry murder. But the three-day annual cock-fights spur a multi-crore betting and blood sport will happen in the coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh during Bhogi, Sankranti and Kanuma festivals, that normally falls in the second week of January.
Thanks to the involvement of politicians in the game, the police look the other way. While there are no official figures, those in the know-how estimate that the betting sport generated a revenue of about ₹800 crore last year, with a single fight netting the winner ₹1 crore in many rings in East, West Godavari districts and parts of Krishna, Guntur and spread to few places in Telangana.
According to N. Satish of Muramalla, a regular punter, this Sankranti may witness betting at a higher rate than last year as organisers had allegedly held talks with the local policemen for the smooth conduct of the rooster fight. Geddam Vijay, another punter from Razole, said that people bet crores in East and West Godavari districts last year.\
“Some of the organisers tried to prepare a temporary helipad to bring in VIPs to East Godavari in the last two years, but somehow it was abandoned in the last moment. This indicates the backing of political leaders for this sport,” said Ramarao, a social activist from Kakinada, East Godavari.
Though the High Court has asked Chief Secretary and the DGP not to allow cockfight, the fights will go on, sources said. By now, trainers in coastal Andhra villages are examining the strength of the game cocks, especially the ones bred for the fights. The most popular bird varieties are Dega, Pacchakaki, Kakinemali, Myla, Kodi Kaki, Teetuva and Kaki.
“Trainers take the roosters to ponds and train them to swim for strength and stamina,” said Krishnam Raju from Bheemavaram in West Godavari.
COURT BAN, POLICE ACTION
Punters in the East and West Godavari districts are getting ready for rooster fights and betting on roosters in the coming festival season. Last year the Supreme Court stayed an Andhra Pradesh High Court order allowing joint teams of police and district administration to seize roosters primed for traditional fights conducted by farmers.
“It is a traditional sport, played from so many years and reflects our culture. I am going to challenge the State High Court in apex court banning rooster fights and inspect teams led by police to barge into ‘any premises’ and seize roosters primed for fights. If no dagger is fixed to the rooster, how one can seize the rooster by barging into any house,” asked Raghurama Krishnam Raju, BJP leader from West Godavari.
“We are strictly going by the High Court order, which has banned rooster fights. We will also implement the apex court directions. We have formed groups in major villages, have taken up campaign in different ways and have spoken to organisers. We have told them to stop the blood-sport,” said M. Ravi Prakash, SP, West Godavari.
“We will book cases against cockfight organisers and those who abet the banned game under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1986, AP Gaming Act, 1974 and other relevant sections,” Vishal Gunni, SP of East Godavari warned.
RELATIVES OF POLITICIANS TAKE PART:
In East Godavari, mostly in Konaseema, as well as in different mandals in West Godavari, the relatives of politicians take active part in organising the sport. A nephew of a MLA is making arrangements in Konaseema in big way. “In Muramalla, five acres were acquired on lease for one month, and galleries and barricades have been arranged in the area to conduct the bloodsport. Apart from land, the organisers invest on conducting ‘Gundata’, supply of liquor, food stalls and other arrangements,” said D. Lakshmana Rao from Muramalla.
In many areas public representatives including MP, MLAs, ZPTCs, and MPTCs are running the show behind scenes, and involving in “managing” the police. A police official on the condition of anonymity said that they will enforce law strictly just two days ahead of Sankranti and allow fights succumbing to political influence.
ROOSTERS FROM INDONESIA, TAMIL NADU:
Punters started breeding roosters already brought from Indonesia, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka six months ago, to make the sport fiercier, and reportedly shifted their dens to interior areas.
There are many well known places in East and West Godavari districts where this sport is organised, including Godilanka, Godi, Yedurlanka villages Muramalla and I. Polavaram mandals, Vedireswaram, Podagatlapalli in Ravulapalem mandal and Mummidivaram, Malikipuram, Kothapeta, Razole, Sakhinetipalli mandals in East Godavari district.
In West Godavari, the fights will be organised at I. Bhimavaram, Undi, Akiveedu, Tanuku, Veeravasaram, Palakol and Narasapuram areas and in East Godavari Razole, Shivakodu, Amalapuram, Jaggannapeta, P. Gannavaram, Ravulapalem and many other places are famous for it.. In Krishna district, Penamaluru, Kankipadu, Vuyyuru, Kalidindi, Kaikaluru, Mudinepalli, Poranki, Gudivada and other areas are known for the cockfights.
In last two years, VIPs including MP J.C. Diwakar Reddy visited I. Bhimavaram to witness the cockfight and also visited Undi for the same purpose. Other prominent politicians witnessed at the cockfight venues in the previous years were Polavaram MLA M Srinivas Rao, YSRCP MLA P Ravindranath Reddy. In Koppaka, Denduluru MLA Chintamaneni Prabhakar participated in the cockfight. Around 10 MLAs from Telangana State too were reported to have visited the cockfight venues in West Godavari district in the past.
YOUTH FROM HYDERABAD, BENGALURU:
“We have already received advance from young software engineers of Hyderabad and Bengaluru to bet on roosters,” said Rama Rao, a punter. Demonetisation had no effect on rooster fights — it only affected the breeding of roosters. “Badam, pista and liquor rates have increased by 30%. After the High Court ban, police took away roosters, on which we spent thousands of rupees,” he said.
HOTEL TARIFF’S HIKED:
There is no vacancy for hotel and lodge rooms in Bheemavaram and surrounding areas for the last few days. Most of the youth, VIPs and others booked rooms one month in advance in this sleepy town.
According to manager of Hotel Indu Residency, Bheemavaram, “Bookings started from last month and we are forced to increase of our tariff as others have already done it in advance.” The hotel tariffs which were around ₹1,000 to ₹3,000 have jumped to ₹5,000 to ₹10,000 a day.
However, Navamita Mukharji, NGO representative, which is fighting for the implementation of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960, has said strict action against organisers and participants of cockfights and disciplinary action against erring officials should be taken.