Protests against ban on Kambala intensify in Dakshina Kannada

Protests against ban on Kambala intensify in Dakshina Kannada
Raising the pitch for lifting the ban on annual buffalo race "Kambala" in Karnataka, thousands of people today staged a massive rally in Dakshina Kannada district here in support of the traditional sport, even as protests on the issue intensified.

Amid tight security, Kambala supporters marched in a nearly four-km long procession from Swaraj Maidan with 200 bullocks and ended their protest against the ban at Kadalakere Nisargadhama Kambala Track.

The protesters holding placards and shouting slogans demanded an ordinance, as was done in the case of Jallikattu (bull taming sport) in Tamil Nadu, to permit holding of the folk sport which is part of the tradition of the coastal Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.

Kambala was part of agriculture and an 800-year-old tradition which was is indivisible component of our lives, the supporters said, emphasising that they treated the buffaloes as their own children and no violence was involved unlike in Jallikattu, where deaths and injuries to many occur.

The protest was called by various committees associated with the organisation of the sport, including the District Kambala Samiti, Sampradaya Kambala Samiti, Kambala Academy and Moodbidri Koti-Chennaya Jodukare Kambala Samiti.

A symbolic Kambala was planned earlier as part of the protest, but was given up after persuasion by district authorities against violating the law. The matter is before the Karnataka High Court at present and it will hear the case on January 31.

The annual sport, held from November to March, involves a pair of buffaloes tied to the plough and anchored by one person. They are made to run in parallel muddy tracks in a competition in which the fastest team wins.

Kambala is believed to be held to propitiate the Gods for a good harvest, besides being a recreational sport for farmers.

Meanwhile, a PETA statement said agitators in Karnataka have taken a leaf out of the pro-Jallikattu protesters' book and begun to falsely label PETA India as "foreign" and were now calling for banning the organisation.
 
Poorva Joshipura, PETA India CEO, said the PETA India was a law abiding organisation which has spent the last 17 years advocating 'ahimsa' (non violence), promoting vegetarian foods and clothing, facilitating free veterinary care for working animals whose owners cannot afford it, among other life saving activities.

"Calling for a ban on PETA India would also be akin to calling for a ban on a child protection organisation which saves children from illegal trafficking. We should all be concerned that such an action is being called for," she said.

After the massive protests in Chennai gained success with the revocation of ban on 'Jallikattu', leaders across political parties have supported a similar action to facilitate Kambala.

A division bench of the Karnataka High Court, headed by Chief Justice S K Mukherjee, in an interim order in November 2016, had stayed holding of Kambala on a petition by PETA challenging it in view of orders passed by the Supreme Court on Jallikattu.

Kambala committees have filed an interim application, seeking vacation of the stay. The ban has sparked a debate on whether the event amounts to cruelty to animals or is just a simple rural sport. Kambala in its traditional form was non-competitive, but over the years, it has become an organised sport.

Animal rights activists claim that the buffaloes run in the race due to fear of being beaten, which the organisers dismiss, saying no violence is involved and that modifications had been made to ensure that it is animal friendly.

Facing growing demand for holding Kambala after the success of the Jallikattu stir in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has said an ordinance could be brought in, if necessary, to allow the event after seeking legal opinion.

He had also asked the Centre to take a favourable stand on Kambala as it did on Jallikattu, where both Tamil Nadu and Central governments, after facing public pressure moved swiftly to facilitate the bull-taming sport. 

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