Guwahati: The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India has approached the Gauhati High Court seeking a ban on traditional buffalo and Bulbul bird fights, which were restarted in Assam after a gap of nine years.
Filing two separate writ petitions (WP(C) No.: 466/2024 and 468/2024), PETA India alleged numerous violations of the central law in the conduct of these events and submitted their investigations into these two types of fights in Assam.
In its first hearing on Tuesday, a single-judge bench of Justice Manish Choudhury heard both the sides and fixed February 1 as the next date for the two linked petitions.
The petitions were filed against the Assam government, represented by the chief secretary, commissioner and secretary of the home and political department, and the Animal Welfare Board of India.
“Buffaloes and Bulbuls are gentle animals, who feel pain and terror, and don’t want to be forced into bloody fights in front of jeering crowds.
“PETA India hopes the Gauhati High Court will recognise that this cruelty is a clear violation of central law and prohibit these violent fights,” PETA India Advocacy Associate Tushar Kol said in a statement.
The petitions to the HC pointed out that the buffalo and Bulbul fights violate the Constitution of India, The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 and several judgments of the Supreme Court of India.
“PETA India also notes that such fights are inherently cruel, cause immeasurable pain and suffering to the animals forced to participate, and contradict the tenets of ahimsa (non-violence) and compassion, which are integral to Indian culture and tradition.
“Allowing these events to continue is a regressive step, which threatens to undo almost a decade of progress in human and animal rights,” the organisation said.
On January 15, traditional Bulbul bird fights were organised after a hiatus of around nine years following a new set of guidelines issued by the Assam government. It was earlier stopped due restrictions imposed by the judiciary.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his family members had visited Hayagriva Madhav temple at Hajo in Kamrup district and witnessed the bird fight with hundreds of visitors on Magh Bihu day.
“Breathing life into our ancient customs and rituals has been a cornerstone of our policies. After nearly a decade, I was able to witness the bulbul fight, a quintessential Bihu tradition which was recently revived by our government,” he had said after watching.
Likewise, the government’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) also allowed buffalo fights, which took place on January 16 in Morigaon, Sivasagar and some Upper Assam districts, with some precautions.
Witnessing the buffalo fight at Ahatguri in Morigaon, Sarma said, “The 2014 Supreme Court order had put a stop on organising these, but we are resuming our traditional event with great happiness. I urge the organisers and buffalo owners to follow the SOP and ensure that no harm comes to the animals.”
“It is our duty to preserve and take forward our heritage, but with responsibility,” he had added.