Mangaluru: Ontikere in Moodbidri may have worn a look of festive celebration on November 11 and 12, as the traditional bull racing sports Kambala returned to the region after its ban in November 2016. But the issue is still hanging fire in the Supreme Court, as questions of animal cruelty remain undecided.
Thousands gathered at the slush race tracks in the village to watch nearly 150 pairs of buffaloes brought in from various parts of Udupi, Dakshina Kannada and Kasaragod districts run in the first races since the ban was suspended.
In July this year, the ban was lifted after the President assented to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Ordinance of 2017, which excludes Kambala from the list of activities considered as practices involving animal cruelty.
Just days after the Moodbidri event, the SC pulled up the Karnataka government, asking how it could pass an ordinance unbanning Kambala when the President had sent back a Bill passed by the state Legislature to the same effect. On Monday, the Karnataka government submitted an affidavit to the court stating that, “there is no legal infirmity in the promulgation of the Ordinance”.
What is kambala?
Kambala is a traditional slush-track buffalo race held mainly in the Dakshina Kannada district between November and March. In these races, a pair of buffaloes tied to a plough run in parallel slush tracks, with a farmer controlling them while balancing on the plough.
For some years now, the sport has courted criticism from animal rights activists including PETA, which started a movement to ban the sport. In 2014, the sport was outlawed based on the Supreme Court judgment that made Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport in neighboring Tamil Nadu, illegal.
In keeping with the new rules, organizers of the Moodbidri event placed restrictions on the racers controlling the animals, including allowing them to whip buffaloes only three times in self-defense. The organizers even disqualified two racers for violating this rule, later allowing them to race without a whip in hand.
However, these measures did not convince PETA, which has gone back to the Supreme Court claiming documented proof of animal cruelty in Kambala.
A bill was passed in the winter session of the Karnataka Assembly in Belagavi earlier today which seeks to legalize Kambala races. The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Second Amendment) Bill 2017, seeks to replace the Ordinance that was promulgated in July with the President’s approval.
With the Supreme Court set to hear the Kambala matter again on Friday, it still remains to be seen whether the sport continues further.