Assam honours SC, breaks tradition on animal fights

Guwahati: Assam Thursday broke a more than a century-old tradition to honour the Supreme Court ban on animal fights. The state stayed away from holding traditional animal fights during one of its biggest festivals, Bhogali Bihu.

The decision not to hold the traditional events came after the state government Wednesday issued instructions to all deputy commissioners and police superintendents, asking them to stop holding of such events.

Buffalo fights, fights of bulbuls (songbirds), cock fights etc. are held at many places across the state.

The most prominent ones are the bulbul fights at the Haigriv Madhav temple in Hajo near Guwahati and the buffalo fights in Aahatguri in Morigaon district.

"It`s a cultural legacy of the people of Hajo to organise bulbul fights. However, we could not hold the event today (Thursday) as there was a ban by the Supreme Court. District officials came to me yesterday (Wednesday) and asked me not to hold such fights citing the Supreme Court order. We had prepared for it and people were anxiously waiting for the event," said Shiva Prasad Sarma, the doloi (head administrator) of the temple.

Sarma, however, rued the fact that the district administration intimated them about the court order only Wednesday -- just a day ahead of the event.

"We did not get any time to appeal to the court to reconsider the order. However, people of the temple town agreed to abide by the court order," he said.

Nathuram Hazarika, member of the organising committee of the Aahatguri buffalo fights, said they have been organising buffalo fights since centuries.

"It`s a culture here and we had made all the preparations to hold the events today (Thursday). However, the district administration did not allow us to hold it," he said.

Morigaon Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Kumar said: "We received an order from the state government yesterday (wednesday) to strictly implement the Supreme Court order, restricting all kinds of animal fights. We approached the organising committee of Aahatguri to stop them. Although they were initially reluctant, they later agreed."

Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu is a harvest festival, probably the biggest in Assam after Rongali Bihu. It marks the end of the harvesting season in the month of Magh. While the main feature of Rongali Bihu is dance and merry-making, Bhogali Bihu is marked by feasts and bonfires.

Magh Bihu celebrations start on the last day of the month of Pooh. The night before is `Uruka`, when people gather around a bonfire, cook dinner, and make merry.

The youth put up makeshift huts, known as meji, from bamboo, leaves and thatch, in which they eat the food prepared for the feast, and then burn the huts the next morning.