Wildlife & Biodiversity

Odisha cracks down on cockfights; arrests 9

Jajpur tribals stress tradition to go on despite birds seizure

By Ashis Senapati
Published: Monday 28 January 2019

Photo: Ashis SenapatiCockfights may soon become a flashpoint in Odisha, where the police have cracked down against the banned practice. Several from tribal communities, however, are dogged about keeping up tradition. On January 27, the police claimed to have arrested nine persons and seized 50 birds in Jajpur district.

Like Tamil Nadu’s Jallikattu, where bulls are made to compete, cockfights have been popular during the Makar Sankranti harvest-festival season in Odisha and elsewhere. The Supreme Court banned the practice that violates provisions of anti-animal cruelty laws.

“We stopped cockfights by raiding several tribal-dominated villages and haats (local markets) recently. We convinced many to not organise the fights,” Kedar Ranjan Sahoo, a sub-divisional police officer, said.

The arrests — on charges of organising cockfights and betting — and the seizure of birds were at Dudhujori village, he added.

Despite the crackdown, though, people gathered in large numbers on January 26 for cockfights at Duburi Hat. “It is our bounden duty to protect and maintain this tradition. Each year we organise month-long fights from Makar Sankranti,” Sankar Jaraka, a Duburi villager, said. 

Hundreds gather around roosters, whose legs have a string tied, as they are made to fight. “If a cock touches its beak on the ground or runs away from the fighting arena, it is deemed defeated,” said Haripada Munda of Duburi.

In the process, many cocks injure themselves. Cash prizes for owners of winning birds increase the competitiveness.

At times the roosters are even fed food laced with intoxicants before fights, said Saraoj Jaraka of Duburi.

Such practices have regularly drawn criticism. Animal rights activists have long sought a ban on cockfights.

“Cockfighting is a cruel act that uses these birds for human entertainment without regard for their safety. At the end of each fight, one or more cocks are usually seriously injured or dead,” Sudhanshu Parida, district secretary of People for Animals, said.

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