TDP, BJP MPs want lift of ban on cockfights

SEEMA ANDRA: Lawmakers in Andhra Pradesh are campaigning against a law that bans cockfights as a spectacle of entertainment. The police in Andhra Pradesh have lately cracked down on the state’s traditional new year practice, in which spectators bet and gamble. Traditional cockfights are called ‘Kodi pandyalu’ in the state.

Three members of pariliament, two from the ruling TDP and one from BJP staged a dharna at near the West Godavari zilla parishad office to protest arrests by police of those who organise the fights. The leaders from TDP and BJP were arrested for backing betting and cockfights, both of which are officially banned. MPs Maganti Babu, Maganti Muralimohan and Gokaraju Gangaraju demanded the police release them immediately.

Two days ago, the Andhra HC took a serious view of cockfights held in coastal areas during the Sankranti festival and directed West Godavari collector and SPs to take strict action. Following court strictures, the police arrested as many as 17 TDP men for organising and betting on cockfights at Dwaraka, Tirumala in West Godavari district. They also seized money.

Police say that the cockfights are a platform for gambling, drinking and womanizing. “The celebrations last for only a day or two to mark harvesting,” superintendent of police S Hari Krishna said. Many pliticians back these cockfights, making it difficult for police to clamp down on them.

Gamblers assemble from Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and even Surat. Last year the police arrested 310 people for being involved in these yearly cockfights. “A lot of money is generated in these fights as people bet with odds of 1:50. Cocks are fed with cashew and sometimes wine to prepare them for fights,” said Subba Raju, a popular cockfight organiser in Bhimavaram.

Venues are used to market FMcG products. From Iphones to microwaves, electronic gadgets to BMW cars many rich farmers shop here. “I sold my Audi car and am will hopefully find a new BMW this Sankranti season,” said Sunil Raju, an Andhra farmer.