Students, Activists protest Kambala ban in Mangaluru
Coastal Karnataka’s growing demand for a legislation supporting traditional buffalo racing sport of Kambala intensified into a mass protest here on Friday. The rally, which saw the participation of thousands, mainly college students, started as part of a human chain from Hampankatta Circle in Mangaluru protesting the ban against the sport.
The streets leading to the District Commissioners Office were filled with cries demanding an immediate ordinance to lift the ban on the sport. Students were also seen carrying placards berating PETA. “Today they say you are beating buffaloes, tomorrow they will say you can’t milk cows, there is pain in that! There is no end,” argued Ashok Rai, a petitioner in support of Kambala in the Karnataka High Court . “We ask the government to pass an ordinance for this, as they did in Tamil Nadu for Jallikattu”, he added.
Kambala is a race between two pairs of buffaloes, in wet rice fields, filled with slush and mud. Like Jallikattu, a bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu, Kambala was banned two years ago after the Animal Welfare Board of India petitioned against animal cruelty in bull taming. However, the Supreme Court order dated May 7 2014 was actually meant for Jallikattu and did not mention Kambala. The AWBI wrote to the Karnataka government in January 2016 requesting it not to allow Kambala races in the state citing the Supreme Court judgement.
Activists in Mangaluru argued that the two sports were vastly different. The objective in Jallikattu is to tame the bull and according to statistics provided by the Animal Welfare Board of India, 43 people have lost their lives to Jallikattu over the years. Kambala, on the other hand, is a buffalo race and while jockeys are regularly injured in the sport, no casualties have been reported .
Social media was rife over the past week, with posters raising calls to protest in Mangaluru City being shared by politicians and pro-Kambala organizations. The “pride of Mangalore”, as one protester described the traditional sport, was supported by residents of Mangalore cutting across political parties. “Mangaluru has 3-4 traditions which we are proud of. Bhoota Kola, Yakshagana , Naaga Mandala and Kambala. If one of it is banned, it is a big problem for all of us,” said Shravan, another protester.
While the state government has showed support for Kambala, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah publicly commenting on the issue, the protesters at Hampankatta showed no signs of letting the issue go without a reversal of the ban on the sport. A second protest is planned in Moodbidri tomorrow with the promise of 200 buffalos lining up at the venue. “We wont give up. We will be back tomorrow at Moodbidri, where 70,000 will take part in the protest. “ reiterated Ashok.
“This is not a about parties and religions. It is about our culture. The people of Karavali won’t give up,” said a member of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, towards the end of the demonstration in Mangaluru.