Fowl play

Thousands of roosters, sharp knives, crores of money and huge arenas are being readied for organising rooster fights during the three-day Sankranti festivities in coastal areas of the State, particularly Krishna, Guntur, East and West Godavari districts.

Despite a ban on cockfights, organisers and punters are making elaborate arrangements for conducting the fights in huge arenas (known as kodi pandela barulu in local parlance) in the villages.

Rooster fights will be conducted day and night under floodlights in many villages on Bhogi, Makara Sankranthi and Kanuma festivals, and the lush green fields will soak in blood. Thousands of birds will be killed in the bloodsport.

Newly wed couples, who will be invited as special guests for the harvest festival, a major festival for farmers in Andhra Pradesh, enjoy the bloodsport. Once the fierce battle ends, severed wings, legs, heads and sometimes wounded fowls struggling for life can be seen on the green grass.

Making a beeline

Thousands of people, irrespective of age, visit Andhra Pradesh, known for cockfights during the harvest festival. Animal and bird lovers have been condemning the inhuman practice of killing fowls for fun in the guise of culture and have been demanding that the government implement the ban on the bloodsport as per the directions of the High Court.

Film personalities, businessmen, public representatives, realtors, software professionals, women, farmers and students from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Telangana, Maharashtra and other States visit Andhra Pradesh to participate in the event.

NRIs from the U.S., Australia, Canada, European and Gulf countries plan a trip to Andhra Pradesh to celebrate Sankranti in their native villages and witness rooster fights. Crores of rupees change hands at the arenas and people bet huge amounts on each game.

Cases booked

The police booked about 1,000 cases on cockfight organisers and punters in the last 15 days in the State, and intensified patrolling to prevent the banned game.

"We identified that cockfights were conducted in 4,552 villages, including 2,494 villages in West Godavari, 1,010 places in Krishna, 400 arenas in Guntur, 466 in East Godavari and other places in the State in 2018. Police have booked 3,228 cases, arrested 7,123 persons and seized 6,865 knives used for cockfights," a police officer said.

The organisers train the fowls named as ‘Sethu’, ‘Nemali’, ‘Dega’, ‘Kaki,’ and ‘Hamsa,’. Villagers will train special species of roosters for the fights and provide them special diet. Each bird is sold for anything between ₹10,000 and ₹1 lakh depending upon the height and colour of the rooster.

Preparing the fowl

"We will give bath to the fowls with hot water, put them through an exercise regimen, feed them almond, meat and other nutritious diet and conduct several trial fights before selling them. The price of the fowl depends on the date of birth, age and the number of fights it won earlier," said a farm owner P. Satyanarayana of Undi in West Godavari district.

A man from Rollagunta village has brought a special variety of fowls titled ‘speed fighters’ from Peru, which are in demand. Each foreign bird was being sold at ₹1 lakh and above, a punter B. Ramu of Dwaraka Tirumala said.

"Cockfights will be conducted in mango and banana orchards too. The venue will be decked up for the game and the organisers auction space for gambling, gundata, ‘mudu mukkalata’, liquor shops, fast food centres and pan shops to add extra fun to the visitors," said an organiser M. Keshavulu of Tarigoppula village in Krishna district.

"Cockfights are part of Sankranti festival and the culture of Konaseema. It’s a prestige question for the bridegrooms who will bet huge amounts on rooster fights," said a woman Pilli Adi Lakshmi of Ravulapalem in East Godavari district.

Meat as trophy

The meat of the roosters killed in the fights is called as ‘Koja’, which costs more than ₹1,500 per kg. There will be a great demand for ‘Koja’, a farmer A. Subba Rao of Korukallu in Krishna district said.

NRIs and visitors from different States are said to have reserved rooms in hotels in Bhimavaram, Razole, Amalapuram, Gudivada, Narsapuram, Guntur, P. Gannavaram, Kakinada, Rajamahendravaram and other towns in advance.

Vijayawada Police Commissioner Ch. Dwaraka Tirumala Rao said that cockfights were banned and warned that stern action would be taken against organisers and punters.

Krishna Superintendent of Police M. Ravindranath Babu said the police were conducting kabaddi, volley ball and other sports under all police stations limits in the district to wean away youth from the banned game.

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