By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, January 9: It’s a conflict about tradition verses animal rights and urban life versus rural.
As the debate over the legality of cockfights raged on, an intertiol animal rights group today asked Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to bring a stop to the “illegal practices” of buffalo fighting and bulbul fighting.
The plea came on the eve of the Magh Bihu, during which buffalo fights are held at many places in the State.
In a letter to Gogoi, the Humane Society Intertiol/India said hundreds of buffaloes are forced to participate in fights for a reward of Rs 10,000 or more.
“Anhatguri, a village in the Morigaon district of Assam, is known to be a popular place where buffalo fights have reportedly been taking place in large tourments since 1972 as means of entertainment where the buffaloes bleed profusely and are severely injured,” the rights group said.
Though buffalo fights are held on the first day of the month of Magh at various locations in Assam as per tradition of Bhogalee Bihu festivities, the one held at Anhotguri is the biggest and most popular among all.
At Anhatguri, the tradition has its root in the days of Ahom King who ruled Assam for six centuries before the advent of British rulers in 19th century. The tradition continued even after Ahom dysty as local agrarian community held onto it firmly on its own without any patroge.
However, since 1972, it has been held in an organized manner under the aegis of a non–governmental organization.
The buffaloes, which are brought to such fights are taken extra care by their owners from October. These beasts are given choicest varieties of nutritious herbs and grass that are grown in tural swamps.
In addition, surgarcane juice and pulses’ shrubs are also provided as food supplements to these buffaloes so that they can become fighting fit.
In fact, the owners say the animals get much better treatment that their peers elsewhere.
The HIS/India further said Bulbuls or “songbirds” as they are known, protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, are reportedly captured from the wild by villagers who then train them by intoxicating their food with marijua and starve the bird a night before the fight.
NG Jayasimha, maging director of HSI/India and member of the Animal Welfare Board of India said: “The illegal practice of animal fighting, be it with buffaloes or bulbuls, involves immense cruelty that ultimately results in distress, injury and painful death of most of these animals. It is a blatant violation of Section 11(1) (m)(ii) and (n) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960.These are nothing but gambling events at the expense of the lives of these animals and we urge the State Government to take an urgent action to prevent and punish the organizers to set an example for any such future events”.
The Supreme Court of India had already passed an order prohibiting all animal races and fights, thereby directing the Animal Welfare Board of India and the government to prevent infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering to animals. The order also ensures that animal caretakers shall not incite any animal to fight against a human being or another animal, the letter to the CM stated.
The HSI/India has recently been successful in stopping illegal cockfights in many parts of India, including Odisha and Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Friday directed that the Animal Welfare Board and others be made parties to a petition seeking stay on a recent order of the Andhra Pradesh High Court banning traditiol cock fight games during the Sankranti festival in the State.
Justifying cock fights, the petition said "In this festival season, all the family members who stay abroad gather at their hometowns for a period of five days. The cock fights are part of the tradition and culture, without which the festival loses its significance."
"These cocks are especially brought up in their family like sons, for cock fight in the villages during the course of the year and waits for this Sankranti festival which is held for five days."
The petitioners also said if the traditiol cock fight is stopped then a special breed of cocks fed and brought up for the purpose would "collapse" and this would not be in the interest of environmental science.
Cockfights are also held in some places of Assam.