AP villages to splurge Rs 2000 crore on Sankranti cockfights

With the upcoming AP Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, many political leaders are seen promoting the illegal cockfights to win favour of the voters in rural areas

Hyderabad: In the Godavari and coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh, where the spirit of Sankranti fills the air with festive fervour, thousands of crores change hands in illegal cockfights arenas during the three-day festival.

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As families gather to fly kites and exchange pleasantries, a clandestine world emerges, fueled by greed and the lure of making easy money. Bets are placed in hushed tones as roosters, primed for bloodsport, are readied for the gruesome showdown. Cockfights are a cherished tradition and a major spectacle in many villages of Andhra Pradesh.

This happens despite the Andhra Pradesh High Court’s recent order directing the police and state government to prevent illegal cockfights during Sankranti celebrations.

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Bloody spectacle

According to a PTI report, thousands of ‘punters’ and spectators descended upon several villages in the Godavari districts and others in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, January 14, to gamble crores of rupees in the annual Sankranti cockfight extravaganza.

“I came from Shamirpet village near Hyderabad. Every year I come to Bhimavaram for Sankranti to watch cockfights. Some of my friends engage in gambling,” M Prabhu, 27, from Telangana said.

Prabhu was posing for photographs at a Sankranti-themed selfie point beside a large white tent where the roosters armed with sharp knives fastened to their feet are competing in the bloody sport.

Politicians and punters

Large flex posters of local ruling party leader P V L Narasimha Raju welcomed the crowds to the venue. With the upcoming AP Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, many political leaders are seen promoting the illegal cockfights to win favour of the voters in rural areas.

Carrying wads of cash in bags, punters placed bets on their chosen roosters, which were well fed and trained for months together in the run-up to the Sankranti festivities.

A network of organisers discreetly orchestrates these underground events. The roosters, often fitted with razor-sharp blades, face a brutal fate in the name of entertainment and easy money. The clash of roosters, spurred on by the cacophony of the cheering crowd, becomes a gruesome spectacle.

Rising demand for roosters

With the rising demand, according to some breeders, the cost of fighting roosters has increased by over 30% this year, with high-quality breeds being sold for Rs 2 lakh to Rs 3 lakh.

According to a report published by Newstap, this year most cockfights will see Peruvian double-cross roosters and the traditional Assel, the fighting bird of Andhra Pradesh. The report further claims that the breeder had been feeding the roosters steroids and aphrodisiacs like Viagra to enhance their performance in the cockfights.

This year, the report adds, in Godavari region minimum bet for each cockfight is not less than Rs 3 crore. Depending on the number of punters involved, the bet can go up to Rs 15 crore. According to experts, an estimated Rs 2000 crore is wagered on cockfights during the three-day Sankranti festival.

Meanwhile, law enforcement agencies, aware of the illicit activities, strive to crackdown on the illegal cockfights. Raids are conducted, arrests made, and roosters rescued from the exploiters.

The once joyous festival tainted by greed is a stark reminder of the battles between tradition and animal rights, where the feathers of deceit cast a shadow over the essence of Sankranti.

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