Monday 20 May 2024

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Will Supreme Court uphold dhirio ban ?


The movement against cruelty to animals started by MP Maneka Gandhi may get a leap forward if the Supreme Court upholds the Mumbai high court's order to ban traditional bull fights in Goa, known as dhirio, now being challenged in the apex court.

The landmark judgement of the Panaji bench of Mumbai high court, delivered last month, has not only banned Goa's most popular bull fights "but all other fights of like nature involving animals including birds which can cause injury to the animals".

As the All Goa Bull and Buffalo Owners' Association has challenged the order, the Supreme Court confirming it may directly hamper all such animal fights like cart races and cock fights prevalent all over India in the countryside.

"The high court understood our plea in spirit", says Norma Alvares, the local lawyer activist of People for Animals and the petitioner. ''Let the 21st century begin liberating the animals from any kind of human exploitation, after the 19th century putting an end to the slavery while 20th century began the process of liberating women'', she adds.

''It is conviction without a trial'', opines Anacleto Viegas, lawyer of bull owners. The appeal before the Supreme Court argues that it's a traditional sport of pushing each other in which no killing is involved.

It also requests the apex court to set regulatory norms to hold the 'sport', while seeking inclusion of dhirio under sections of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, which pertains to performing animals like in the circus.

Meanwhile, owners of the fighter bulls are in a deep financial crisis due to a 'dry season' for dhirio as the local bench of Mumbai high court had stayed it since October, while admitting the petition filed by the PFA.

Dhirio are popular in over 100 villages spread along the Goan coastline in three densely populated talukas, which also include major towns of Panaji, Margao and Mapusa. Over 2000 people have been nourishing them, spending between Rs 50,000 to Rs one lakh each annually, training them specially for the fights.

The show of dhirio, held on every weekend, pulled a crowd of around 4000, at the ticket rate of Rs 40 each. While fighter bulls were paid between Rs 3000 to Rs 70,000, it involved lakhs of rupees of turnover including betting and gambling. It was also a major tourist attraction here.

Judging the popularity, it slowly took a commercial shape. Margao, the South Goa's district town, became the centre of it. The underworld intellectuals combined godgodo, a popular way of gambling, with it while the police was taken on their 'pay roll'.

But it all came to an end when the high court stayed the traditional bull fights from October onwards. The immediate concern was death of a person at dhirio held on September 17, when a fighter bull pushed through the crowd. Mahatma Gandhi too came for PFA's rescue, as the organisers made a "mistake" of organising the season's mega event on October 2.

As the amount spent on nourishing fighter bulls was going waste, attempts were made to organise dhirio during Christmas and New Year day, even after the high court's final judgement on December 20. But the police did not allow it.

"We do respect the judiciary. But the judgement has ruined our lives. How will we live now and what will our bulls do", asks Simon Caido, who was made president of the All Goa Bull and Buffalo Owners Association, to intervene into the petition.

"I do sympathise with the agony the owners are going through. But one has to sacrifice if animal rights have to be preserved", says Ms Alvares. She blames the state authorities, who did not bother to take steps to ban dhirio in a phased out manner despite bringing the illegality to their notice by PFA leader Maneka Gandhi one year ago.

Attempts were also made by the bull owners to pressurise the local politicians to get the act amended, involving union law minister Ramakant Khalap and MP Churchill Alemao, who owns a champion fighter bull. But, while expressing concern, they preferred to push the ball in the state government's court to get the central act amended through the state Assembly. is now on Telegram & also Youtube. Kindly subscribe for free & remain updated.

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