Despite a court ban, police crackdowns, and a threat of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the coastal state of Andhra Pradesh in India set up numerous arenas in many villages and held cockfights as a part of the Sankranti celebrations. The blood sport is held for three days during the Sankranti festivities.
Cockfights and gambling events were organized at Royyur, Uppuluru, Thotlavalluru, Ampapuram, Gannavaram, G Kondur, Nuzvid, Musunuru, Kankipadu, Gudivada, Chatrai, Agiripalli, Mylavaram and other villages in the Krishna district.
Similar to previous years, the police announced earlier that stringent measures would be taken to prevent cockfights from being held. Rahul Dev Sarma, superintendent of police of West Godavari, stated that the police would use drone cameras to keep a tab on cockfights during the festival.
Regardless of the warnings and efforts to wean the banned activity, thousands of people from various Indian states and other countries arrived to participate in the cockfights. The use of rooster knives in the cockfights was also unstoppable.
Higher officials intervened in some villages to bring cockfights under control. According to the police, 100 persons were taken into custody and more than 50 cases were filed against cockfight organizers in the district. A senior police official stated, “As far as the tradition is concerned, villagers and organizers can organize cockfights sans blades. However, gambling is prohibited.”
It was also reported that several political leaders attended cockfights in Krishna, Guntur, and the twin Godavari districts that marked the Sankranti celebrations. According to Ayyappa Swamy, a cockfight enthusiast from Bhimavaram, a major hub for cockfighting, local political leaders were betting big money on the game. “It is the best way to mobilize funds for the coming elections. These leaders have spent huge money in the local body elections held last year and they have to get back their money through cockfights,” he said.
Aside from local politicians, it was also reported that big businessmen, rich farmers, software professionals, realtors, students, and non-resident Indians (NRIs) also participated in the banned sport. In some villages, women were also seen to have enjoyed the gatherings. Long queues were seen at the ATM centers located in the villages. The cockfights also provided a brisk business for liquor shops, eateries, and fast food centers. Make-shift casinos have also sprung up.
According to a report released by the state police department, during the Sankranti festivities In 2021, as many as 1,006 cases pertaining to cockfights were booked, 4,072 people were arrested, an amount of 47.93 lakh INR (61,763 USD) was seized, and 1,739 cocks were confiscated. For 2022, the highest bet was 10 lakh INR (12,884 USD) on a game that concluded in 12 minutes.