The ubiquitous red-vented Bulbul is the hunted one these days in Assam’s Hajo. A 400 year old tradition pits these birds against each other in the compound of the historic Haigrib Madhab Temple on the day of Bihu. A year after the contentious event was banned by the sessions court, the bird fight is back this year with the High Court removing the ban. Buoyed by the order, around 100 families are expected to participate this year with a catch of over 400 birds for the fight.
The birds are first trapped, then kept hungry and often drugged to make them more ferocious. On the day of the fight, birds from two villages Sonaritula and Bharalitula are pitted against each other. It is this hunger which forces them to attack each other.
Animal rights activists are now mulling a move to Supreme Court against this fight. Sangeeta Goswami of People For Animals (PFA) says she would like to seek Union Minister Maneka Gandhi’s help to take the legal fight forward. She also says that apart from the pre-fight torture, a number of birds do not survive the injuries received during the fight itself.
Residents of Hajo however maintain the birds are never tortured. They claim the birds often stay back after the fight when they are released. But we suspect they stay back for that intoxicating mixture of 108 ingredients which are allegedly fed to the bird while they are held captive before the fight. Not a single villager was willing to speak to us about this.
A battle rages on – between a 400 year-old ‘tradition’ and the question of ethical treatment of animals. It is probably time to take a stronger view against these traditions, be it Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu, the cock fights of Andhra Pradesh, or the Bulbul fight of Hajo.
ALSO WATCH: A special report on the Bulbul fights from Hajo