Karnataka to amend Act to facilitate Kambala as protests grow

Bengaluru: Amid growing protests for lifting the ban on buffalo race Kambala, Karnataka Cabinet today decided to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act to pave the way for the traditional sport in the coastal region.

“The cabinet has decided to move a draft bill in the legislature session scheduled from February 6 to February 10. It will allow Kambala and bullock cart racing, which will be enabled by amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and therefore considered a normal traditional sport,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T B Jayachandra told reporters.

The bullock cart races are held in North Karnataka and Kambala in the districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada.

Jayachandra said the amendment will exempt Kambala and bullock cart racing from the clutches of the laws under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Kambala was being held for nearly 600 years and does not cause any cruelty to the participating animals, he said, adding that in recent times, not a single death has taken place due to the folk sport.

In Moodabidri, 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. They demanded an ordinance, as was done in the case of Jallikattu to permit holding of the folk sport.

Kambala was part of agriculture and an 800-year-old tradition which 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.

The matter is before the Karnataka High Court 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. It 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 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.

The High Court 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.