Tarun Gogoi, rights groups lock horns

Conflict seems to be brewing between the Assam government and animal rights groups. An international animal rights group has asked Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to implement the order of the Supreme Court prohibiting all animal races and fights during Bihu in Assam.

Bihu is the most important festival in Assam and is celebrated thrice a year. In the month of April, it is called Rongali or Bohag Bihu; during October-November it is called Kati Bihu; and in the month of January it is called Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in which an age-old tradition is of organising fight of buffalos.

The villagers bring their buffaloes for the thrilling traditional fight in which the specially reared buffaloes are brought to the ring and then provoked for the duel.

In the months preceding the festival, buffaloes are fed with rich fodder and reeds of long grass, typical to the state’s marshy land. The buffalo fights are held on the first day of Magh Bihu at various places in Assam, but one hosted at Anhotguri in Morigaon district of Assam is the biggest and most popular among all.

Referring the buffalo fight of Anhotguri, the managing director of HSI in India N.G. Jayasimha, who is also the member of the Animal Welfare Board of India, in his letter to Mr Gogoi said, “Hundreds of buffaloes are forced to participate in fights for a reward of `10,000 or more. It is taking place at large scale since 1972 as means of entertainment where the buffaloes bleed profusely and are severely injured.”

Assam chief minister has chosen to ignore the letter of the animal rights activists as preparation has completed for the Bihu.

The festival has its root in the days of Ahom King who ruled Assam for six centuries before the British rulers in 19th century.