Updated: February 28, 2021 7:30:14 am
THERE is a cock in this story, a whole lot of bull, and plenty of people running around like headless chicken. But the saga of a 1.5-ft tall fiery rooster, from Gollapali in Jagtiyal district of Telangana, is far from over.
The bird — “estimated to be two or three years old” — stands accused of causing its owner’s death by accidentally slashing him in the groin. Bird fights are illegal in Telangana, and the rooster now finds itself not just without an owner and a vocation, but also in police custody and facing a possible court hearing.
The incident happened on February 22, during a bird fight being held on the sly near a temple in Gollapalli. For T Sathaiah, a 45-year-old small-time poultry owner well known in the area for training roosters for precisely such fights, it was a normal day at work. He arrived with the rooster, that was ready to shed blood with a 3-inch knife strapped to one of its legs. However, as he was putting it down to take on the other rooster, the bird struggled to free itself, and in the process, slashed Sathaiah in the groin.
Gollapalli Police Station Sub-Inspector K Jeevan says Sathaiah started bleeding profusely. “The sharp knife dealt a grievous injury. He lost a lot of blood by the time he was taken to hospital where he was declared dead.”
Jeevan believes it as an open-and-shut case, with the knife and rooster seized, and their photos taken as extra precaution. “We kept the bird at the police station for a day but later shifted it to a poultry farm nearby, where it is being taken care of. Photos of the rooster will be submitted to court. If the court orders, we will produce the bird,” Jeevan says.
Sathaiah’s wife Vasantha, 38, who rolls beedis to earn a living, has told the police he would often participate in such fights. Of their two daughters, the 16-year-old has a speech impairment, while the younger one, 14, is in school. They live in a one-room tin shed. Sathaiah would earn Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000 each bird fight.
Police said the rooster that left him injured had cost him Rs 10,000. On February 22, it had won five fights, starting 9.30 am. Eyewitnesses have told police that high on this, Sathaiah had had a lot to drink, leading to the incident around 4.30 pm.
An official said the poultry farm owner to whom the rooster has been handed over has been instructed to take care of it. “These birds are fragile and require special care. We will check on the bird once in a while,” said Circle Inspector (Dharmapuri) Rameshwara Rao, adding that the birds are raised on a special diet including cashew nuts and semi-cooked prawns and might die if not handled properly.
While bird fights are banned in Telangana, it is an open secret that these are held clandestinely at many places across the state, with bets on them running into lakhs. In fact, during the Sankranti festival this January, two other roosters, along with 10 people, had ended up in the lock-up of Mudigonda Police Station in Khammam district after police had raided a tent where bird fights were being organised. The birds had spent three days in lock-up until police produced the accused in court. The birds were later released.
Sankranti is when both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh put their best birds forward, with fights held in tents and sheds amidst fields or mango groves,. An official says, “Only those who raise roosters for fights and those who bet on the fights know of the locations.”
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