Traditional Animal Fight
Traditional Animal Fight


Source: I.E Relevance: GS Paper II (Governance), GS III (Environment- Ecology) & GS V (Assam Issues) Context: Recently, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) organisation has filed a lawsuit in the Gauhati High Court, challenging the longstanding traditions of buffalo and bulbul fighting.

About the News:

  • PETA India has submitted two petitions to the Gauhati High Court, seeking the prohibition of certain activities and the prevention of fights during legal proceedings.

  • PETA conducted investigations in Ahatguri and Hajo this year.

  • In Ahatguri, buffalos were subjected to mistreatment, including slapping, pushing, jabbing, and striking, as well as being roughly handled by nose ropes to incite fights.

  • Many buffalos suffered injuries during the fights, which concluded only when one buffalo managed to escape.

  • In Hajo, bulbuls were unlawfully captured and forced into fights over food, contrary to their natural behaviour.

Traditional Animal Fights in Assam’s Cultural Festivities:

  • Buffalo and bulbul fights form an integral part of the Assamese winter harvest festival known as Magh Bihu, which occurs in January, coinciding with similar festivals across India.

  • Buffalo fights are conducted in several places across Assam, with Ahatguri in the Nagaon district serving as the primary venue.

  • Meanwhile, bulbul fights draw crowds to the Hayagriv Madhab Mandir in Hajo, near Gauhati.

Status of Buffalo and Bulbul Fights:

  • Recent Court Proceedings: A recent court session addressed a petition regarding a potential buffalo fight scheduled outside the government-prescribed timeframe.  The petitioner alerted the court about plans to organise a fight beyond the permitted period.

  • Court’s Observation: The court noted that hosting a buffalo fight after January 25 would likely violate government regulations.

  • Court’s Recommendation: The court advised the petitioners to inform the relevant district office about the situation. The district office would then take appropriate action following standard operating procedures.

Debates Surrounding Animal Sports in India:

  • Controversial Sports: Various sports in India, such as Jallikattu, Cockfighting, Kambala, Bear Dancing, and Monkey Dancing, have sparked discussions concerning animal welfare.

  • Opposing Viewpoints: Critics argue that these activities constitute animal cruelty and serve no purpose. They contend that such practices should be abolished to protect animal rights.

  • Cultural Significance Argument: Conversely, proponents argue that these sports hold significant cultural value. They assert that the animals involved are cared for with love and affection, often regarded as integral members of the family.

Animal Welfare Laws in India:

  • Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960: The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, outlines penalties for mistreating or subjecting animals to cruelty.

  • Constitutional Duty: The Indian Constitution recognizes safeguarding animals as a fundamental duty.

  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, enacted by the Central government, focuses on safeguarding wildlife. Additionally, there exist state-level laws concerning the prohibition of cow slaughter and the protection of cattle.

  • Indian Penal Code Provisions: Provisions within the Indian Penal Code address and penalise acts of cruelty towards animals.

  • Legislative Allocation: Matters related to animal rights are distributed between the State and Concurrent Lists. States hold authority over preserving and safeguarding animals in the State List. Both the Central and state governments have jurisdiction to legislate on preventing cruelty to animals and safeguarding wildlife and birds listed in the Concurrent List.

The legal battles concerning buffalo and bulbul fights in Assam underscore the complex balance between cultural traditions and animal welfare concerns. Despite interventions by the Supreme Court and directives from the government, animal cruelty remains a persistent issue. PETA’s initiatives recognize the importance of preserving cultural heritage while advocating for animal rights within the framework of evolving legislation.

Advait IAS