Karnataka government bats for buffalo race ‘Kambala’

Bengaluru, Jan 27 (IANS) The Karnataka government is in favour of reviving the traditional wetland buffaloes race “Kambala” even by amending the law following a popular demand for it in the state’s coastal areas, said an official on Friday.

“The state cabinet will discuss on Saturday a draft bill to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, as there is a high court stay in the light of a Supreme Court ban on it since May 2014,” the official, who did not want to be named, told IANS here.

The Karnataka High Court had on November 18, 2016 granted an interim stay on the centuries old buffaloes race, held in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada and Uduipi, about 400km from Bengaluru, from November-March every year.

“The government has also advised the state Advocate General for seeking an early hearing in the high court to get the interim stay vacated on Kambala,” according to the official.

Demand for reviving the buffalo race in the state came after the Tamil Nadu assembly on January 23 passed a law to bypass the Supreme Court’s May 7, 2014 ban on Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport, which used to be held during the Pongal festival in mid-January every year.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India sought a ban on Kambala, as the buffaloes are whipped to race faster for their owners to win a cash prize, which ranges from Rs 10,000 to Rs 5 lakh.

Admitting PETA’s submission that buffaloes were subjected to fear and pain in the race, a division bench of Chief Justice S.K. Mukherjee and Justice K Somashekar upheld that “compassion triumphs over cruelty and that Kambala has no place in a civilised society”.

State Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister T.B. Jayachandra said the amended law would have strict guidelines to ensure there was no cruelty to the buffaloes, as the Kambala would be declared as a traditional sport.

“We will introduce the amendment bill in the ensuing state legislature session from February 6 and send it for the President’s assent,” said Jayachandra.

Demanding for lifting the ban, Kamabala organisers contended that if whips were not used on the buffaloes, they would not speed up to win the race.

“Unlike in Jallikattu race, in which the bulls are taunted and provoked violently, there is no cruelty in Kambala as the buffaloes are flagged to run faster as bullocks and horses are whipped to run the carts,” said Lok Sabha’s BJP lawmaker from Dakshina Kannada Nalin Kumar Kateel.