Six persons were arrested on Thursday for showing cruelty to birds and harassing them during sevelkattu (rooster fight) events in Karur district.
The district administration had permitted the organisers to conduct the cockfights, usually held in villages during the Pongal festival, for four days, starting Wednesday, on the condition that the roosters should not be subjected to any form of harassment, and the law on prevention of cruelty to animals should be adhered to.
Veterinarians from the Animal Husbandry Department checked the cocks before allowing them into the arena. Though the organisers repeatedly made announcements on the need to “obey the rules and regulations” of the cockfight, many participants ignored them.
The cockfights were conducted simultaneously in 39 cock pits that had been established on the sprawling ground. The specially bred and conditioned combatants were made to fight it out with aggression until one of the birds was critically injured or left decapitated. Some of the birds died in the cockpit. Many of the fights lasted five to six rounds, testing the stamina of the birds.
However, following complaints of cruelty being meted out to the birds, the Aravakurichi police arrested six persons. According to police sources, the accused allegedly tied sharp knives to the legs of the cocks and made them fight against each other. At least 7 persons, including spectators, were injured when the cocks flew out of the enclosures and hit them.
The police filed two separate cases under Section 11 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and arrested S. Rajendran, P. Ramesh, R. Vadivel, Murugesan, J. Moorthy and M. Senthilkumar of Poolanvalasu. All of them were remanded in judicial custody.
Two more cases were filed against four persons on the charge of indulging in betting on the fights.
In 2014, the rooster duels in Aravakurichi taluk were banned after two bystanders died after being injured apparently by knives tied to the legs of the birds. The events resurfaced a couple of years later, albeit with restrictions.
“Cockfight is not just a sporting pastime; it blends into our culture and tradition. I believe that if my cock wins, it will bring prosperity to my family,” said M. Leo Raj of K. Paramathi, who has been bringing his roosters to the fights for the past 15 years.
“One of the combatant cocks invariably dies or suffers critical injuries in the fight. It is hard to reconcile if well-bred and conditioned cocks die. But we take it in the right spirit as the sport symbolizes our identity,” said M. Subramanian of Alanpadi in Dindigul district.
According to rough estimates, more than 40,000 people thronged Poolanvalasu on Wednesday, the first day of the event. Nearly half of them had brought roosters. The crowd was considered unprecedented in the history of the several decades-old annual rooster fights being held in the village. The event attracted a huge turnout on Thursday too. All roads leading to Poolanvalasu were flooded with cars, vans and motorbikes as enthusiastic spectators made a beeline to witness the event.
Chairman of the District Cooperative Union Bank R. Natarajan, one of the organisers, said they had taken all necessary steps to adhere to the rules and regulations of the event.
Cocks were allowed to participate in the fights only after physical checks. Several restrictions were imposed to ensure the safety of spectators, he said.
The cockfights will continue on Friday and Saturday as well.