Amaravati, Jan 14: Lakhs of rupees changed hands as despite the ban, cockfights were organised on a large scale in parts of Andhra Pradesh on Sunday, the first day of the three-day Sankranti festival.
Organisers backed by politicians conducted cockfights on a large scale in East Godavari, West Godavari, Guntur and Krishna districts.
Lakhs of rupees changed hands as revellers bet big on the cockfight, which was banned in 2018 on the orders of the Supreme Court.
Prominent people from various parts of the state and other states were among hundreds of spectators and punters.
They included politicians of all hues, businessmen and celebrities. Cockfights were held in Gudivada, Penamaluru, Kaikalur, Gannavarm, Nandigama, Jaggayyapet, and Mylavaram constituencies under the alleged patronage of the leaders of political parties.
Wads of currency notes could be seen among the hands of organisers as well-trained cocks with small knives attached to their legs fought amid cheers by the spectators.
The fight often ends with the death of one of the two birds. Hundreds of people participated in the betting at the competitions, which are likely to continue for three days.
The organisers arranged generators and flood lights to organise the cockfights throughout the night.
Special galleries were arranged for women and VVIPs.
People from far-off places and even from neighbouring states of Telangana, Odisha and Tamil Nadu were participating in the betting.
Like in the past, the organisers built sprawling arenas in towns and villages.
Some even installed digital screens to beam the fight between roosters live.
They also deployed bouncers and installed CCTV cameras to deal with anyone creating problems.
The arenas built for cockfights and other games as part of Sankranti festivities resembled huge cinema settings or cricket fields.
Elaborate arrangements were made for parking of cars and other vehicles of the participants.
The organisers also provided passes to the spectators, tokens to those betting on cockfights and also wristbands for the participants.
The appeals by groups working for animal rights to the authorities to implement the court orders had no impact.
The organisers argue that cockfights are a part of culture and tradition.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India had stated on Saturday that on its complaint, the Animal Welfare Board has issued emergency advisory to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to stop cockfights during Makar Sankranti.
The NGO claimed that despite a ban on cockfighting in the country, arenas were set up and steroids and alcohol administered to roosters.
According to PETA, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) swiftly issued a letter to the Andhra Pradesh Animal Welfare Board and the Telangana State Animal Welfare Board to direct authorities to take appropriate actions under the law and furnish an action taken report.
Cockfighting is prohibited under Sections 11(1) (m) (ii) and (n) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.
PETA India also sent letters to state police in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana urging action and offering to take in seized birds.
The Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police has issued instructions to unit officers to be vigilant against cockfighting during Makar Sankranti.
According to PETA, roosters raised for fighting are often kept in cramped cages and tormented in practice fights.
Their eyes may be gouged out, their wings and legs broken, their lungs punctured, or their spinal cord severed.
In fights, one or both birds may die and both are often critically injured.
At these events, roosters who are fitted with blades for cockfighting have accidentally killed humans and gambling is common, PETA said. (IANS)