East Godavari: Sankranti, the big and favourite festival of Telugu people, is a few weeks away. Amid the festive spirits, preparations for the bloody cockfights have begun in East Godavari, West Godavari and a few coastal districts of Andhra Pradesh.
Though the state government and courts have imposed restrictions on cockfights, organisers and punters continue to promote the blood sport with the support of political leaders.
The Supreme Court has said that cockfights can be conducted in a traditional way in AP, without tying knives to the legs of the roosters and minus gambling or betting. However, organisers brazenly disregard the order.
Sources said the 3-day Sankranti festival has become a multi-crore event in the state due to heavy betting over cockfights, which leave the birds dead or maimed.
The East Godavari police on Tuesday seized over 3,900 knives worth Rs12 lakh meant to be tied to the legs of roosters and nabbed a certain K Somaraju at Seetharampuram village.
Inspector of Kakinada Rural police, A Muralikrishna, said Somaraju had made the blades at a small unit. The police said that they have been acting on tips about the units that manufacture the sharp objects.
A few days ago, the East Godavari police seized over 30 roosters, whose owners were planning to engage the birds in the bloody games during Sankranti.
"There is nothing wrong in cockfights as it was our traditional sport in both the Godavari districts and we can enjoy it," said D Raghu Raju, a resident of East Godavari district.
It takes about a couple of weeks to ready the cockfight rings, said B Sateesh Kumar, a native of Bheemavaram of West Godavari, where cockfights are a mega sport. "Betting worth at least Rs 500 crore will take place this time," he added.
There are people who make brisk money training the birds. The roosters are made to swim, jump and do a few other activities for three to four hours a day. They are also fed with dry fruits and nuts to make them strong.
Some people spend up to Rs 2 lakh for feeding and training the roosters. They also put a bet of over Rs 20 lakh on each game.
Since rearing fighter cocks involves a lot of money, they are sold for anything between Rs 1 lakh and Rs 4 lakh a bird.
Owners hire specialists to tie blades to a rooster's limb as it is the ultimate weapon to kill a rival bird in the bloody sport.
According to organisers, the fighter birds’ prices depend on how well they have been fed and trained. The fighters are classified as Dega (Eagle), Kaaki (Crow), Pearl and Nemali and few others. The names indicate their fighting skills. Dega is the most ferocious and costliest, they said.
The Humane Society International India, which has been fighting against the cockfights, said they will file a petition against the practice, with or without knives, as it amounts to cruelty.