After a hiatus of nine years due to government restrictions imposed in 2015, traditional buffalo and bulbul fights are set to be revived during the upcoming Magh Bihu festival in mid-January in Assam. Despite a previous ban influenced by the Supreme Court’s ruling on jallikattu in Tamil Nadu in 2014, the Assam government has decided to allow these events this year. To prevent cruelty to animals, the government issued a strict Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on December 27.
The SOP stipulates that permission will only be granted to locations with a 25-year history of organizing such events. This move has been met with approval from local communities, with a member of the Ahatguri Anchalik Moh-Juj and Bhogali Bihu Utsav Samiti expressing happiness and assurance of adherence to the SOP.
Notably, the Morigaon district commissioner, Devashish Sharma, emphasized the necessity of a written undertaking to comply with the rules for obtaining permission to organize these fights. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is expected to attend the buffalo fights, which are slated to take place at the Lakshminath Bezbaruah Samannoy Kshetra.
Buffalo and bulbul fights have a historical significance in the cultural fabric of Assam. These traditional events, deeply rooted in the state’s heritage, have been part of festivals like Magh Bihu for generations. However, in 2015, due to concerns about animal cruelty, the government imposed restrictions, leading to a hiatus in these practices.
To ensure the well-being of the animals involved, the state cabinet has reportedly directed the veterinary department to deploy teams at the fight locations, ready to respond to any medical emergencies. Committees organizing the events are mandated to implement safety measures, including strong barricades and a prohibition on the use of sharp objects to incite the buffaloes.
The focus remains on reviving cultural traditions while prioritizing the welfare of the animals involved, marking a balance between heritage and ethical considerations.