Cockfighting still a popular pastime in Aizawl

By Sangzuala Hmar, IANS

Aizawl : On a Sunday, you might find scores of residents in the Mizoram capital heading for a secluded place on its outskirts for their favourite pastime – cockfighting.

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There was a time when cockfighting was a traditional pastime for Mizos. It was the only entertainment that young Mizo boys had some 50 years ago. Today it is illegal as it causes cruelty to the birds.

But cockfighting fans from Aizawl congregate at secretive spots in large numbers to watch the killer game. The location keeps changing avoid the eyes of law. These fights involve one fowl attacking a rival fowl, so much so that one starts to bleed severely and runs off. Most people place bets on their favourite fowl.

"We come to enjoy the traditional cockfight with so much enthusiasm. It's like a festival," said Mathana, who was among the 150 people who had gathered to watch one such session in progress.

At each match there is at least Rs.5,000 at stake. The winning cock owner usually takes home about 40 percent of the sum.

"Every Sunday around Rs.60,000 gets blown up at cockfights at this venue," an organiser said.

A lot of preparation precedes each fight. Owners take special care of their fowls, nurturing them for "the championship race".

The selection of fowl depends on its physical strength. At times the fight ends as soon as one side quits – that is when one bird runs away after being badly hurt during the game.

The combatants are not typical farm chickens. The roosters are specially bred and conditioned for increased stamina and strength.

In other parts of the world, cock owners arm their cocks with spikes, but here the bird's natural spurs are left intact.

"In Thailand or the Philippines, small sharpened blades or knives are tied to the foot of the fowl so that they can cause maximum injury to the opponent and the game continues till the death of one of the fighting cocks. But for us it's a sport and we don't want anyone to die," one of the organisers said.

Several time, local vigilantes and cops have stopped these cockfights. But old habits die hard.

C. Luri, an activist of People for Animals: "We are living in an IT age. There are so many other means of entertainment. It's very wrong to go the way of our forefathers by being so cruel to the birds."