A Brief Aspect Of Cockfighting In Contemporary Manipur

Sandeep Thoudam *

Cock Fighting as witnessed at Maokot, Indo-Burma Border (Ukhrul District) :: January 2011
Cock Fighting as witnessed at Maokot, Indo-Burma Border (Ukhrul District) in January 2011

The first impression is always cruelty, gambling and betting. And it gets even worse when you take a look into the world of cock fighting. Manipur is not an alien to this infamous sport which dates back to around 6000 BC. People involved in this socially outcaste entertainment are mostly from the weaker section of the society. For them, it is a means of livelihood and also serves as a platform to express their feelings among the gathering which is more or less like a community.

The sanctity of this group of people can be known by the fact that even after strict rules and regulation formulated by the law maker; they are able to flourish in every corner of the state. One of the most important reasons that enable cock fighting to survive in contemporary Manipur society is their ability to adapt and make it commercially viable.

The rules of cockfighting are simple. The fowls are brought into the arena or pon where the approximate height, seize, weight and age are calculated by the organiser and accordingly the match is determined. The match are fought for three hours and in the case of lopsided condition, the owner of the superior or inferior fowl decides a time with a condition that if the superior fowl fail to win the match at the stipulated time then the inferior fowl be automatically declared as winner.

A win is decided when a fowl makes the other to produce a strange cry (a defeated fowl produced a strange sound) or kill it in the arena. Side by side, the amount to be laid for betting is collected by the organiser and a total of 10% is deducted as their fee. It is interesting to note that individuals present around the arena can also bet among themselves without any charges unlike the owners.

Over the last decade, this structure has been modified to make it more money-spinning. For instance, the duration of the fight time is decreased from three to two hour, raising the share of the organiser from 10% to 20% and increase in the rate of recurrence of matches in a week, amongst them. In the early days, it was a local affair and if a match was to take place, both the parties would fix a particular date, place and time to make the fight happen.

However, with the improvement of network and influx of mobile phones, the fights take place within hours of appointment in a tenable place. The betting amount in a match has also increased substantially, from a meagre sum of just below three hundred rupees; it has increased massively and may range between five thousand and fifty thousand rupees. But in a highly competitive match, it may go beyond one lakh rupees.

Here, what is astonishing is that no matter how large the amount may be one side never fails to pay it up to the other party. This ‘trust’ shared among the parties is the sole reason that makes cock fighting a lucrative field that ensures quick earning. On the other hand, the prices of a good breed game fowl has shown steep rise in its prices ranging from five thousand to twenty thousand rupees. The culmination of all this development has successfully made cockfighting a highly commercialized sport. It has become widespread and prominent, neglecting its consequences framed by the law maker.

The Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Act 1960, chapter 1 and 2 of the Act came into force in the state of Manipur on 1st September 1961 and chapter 4 which give power to impose penalties was added on 15th July 1963. According to Section 11 of this Act, cockfighting is a cognizable offence. If one is found guilty, the fine imposed is ten rupees which can be extended up to twenty five rupees and if another offence is committed within three years of the previous offence, the fine may extend from twenty five to one hundred rupees or imprisonment for three months or both.

This act came to heavy criticism as the penalty imposed was very light and the culprit tends to do the same mistake over and over again. In the light of this a new draft on Animal Welfare Act was prepared in 2011. According to it, the fine for first offence has been increased from ten thousand to twenty five thousand rupees or imprisonment of two years or both. In the case of subsequent offence, the fine will be fifty thousand rupees which can be increased to one lakh rupees and with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but may extend to three years.

In spite of these penalties, cockfighting is still widely prevalent in Manipur. The authority even though has knowledge and idea about it; they are often faced with predicament situation. The law enforcer finds it very hard to locate their venues. Most of the time, the venue is decided just hours before the match or may change three to four times before a decisive venue is acknowledged.

And during the course of the match or before, if the group senses even the slightest possibility of getting raided, they will shut down the venue for months or even years. Keeping aside this, any brawl during a match could alarm the authority to take appropriate action. But in a queer startlingly way, hardly fights occurs and even if it does then the elderly person present in the group are always able to pacify them.

To make things more complicated for the law enforcers, the people residing near such venues take opportunity out of it by opening small eatery stalls in and around. And as they are benefitted indirectly, the possibility of getting any information out from them is highly improbable, which in turn becomes a direct blow to our law enforcers in their effort to curb such activities

Cockfighting is a way of earning in the eye of a person who indulges in such kind of activity. For them, in order to cope with the demand of the domestic needs, they put themselves at risk of losing the money at fight as well as getting caught by the authority. The morality of this sport cannot be argued with them as large parts of their earning are sink in their household activities.

While others view it as a barbaric sports which ultimately serves as a backward driving force of the society. Apart from cruelty to the animal, the ill effects are also found on the children who gets involve in this blood sport; they are exposed to gambling at a very young age and often get astray leading to culmination of an unhealthy society. In recent years, the strength of this group has increased tremendously and with it, other forms of unwanted activities like drinking and playing cards have become rampant.

Keeping in view of this development, many feel that the venues has become more or less like a breeding ground for social evil. And the archaic sport of cockfighting, even though kept its ground intact for thousands of years, has no place in the contemporary society and needs to be controlled.

* Sandeep Thoudam wrote this article for
The writer is Graduate, University Of Delhi and can be contacted at thoudaba(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was posted on December 12, 2013.

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