Ambiguity over buffalo sport’s legal standing


There have been calls for a ban on Dakshin Kannada’s Kambala likening it to Tamil Nadu’s controversial bull sport Jallikattu.

Bangalore, April 13, 2018: The legal standing of Kambala—Dakshina Kannada’s famed buffalo race—hangs in the balance as the Kambala committee’s stance is in conflict with the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling.

Following the public outrage over the increasing death toll in Jallikattu—a bull-running event popular in Tamil Nadu—the Supreme Court had decided to revise all the ordinances related to animal sports, and postponed the hearing for Kambala to March 12, 2018. That cleared the way for Kambala to be held until the end of February.  However, the Kambala committee chairperson Sudakar Shetty and the chief organizer of the sport in South Karnataka, Ashok Kumar Rai claim that the sport has been legalized; although there have been no reports stating the same.

Kambala is a sport that involves a buffalo race on muddy tracks. It is celebrated by the farming community in Dakshina Kannada and it begins in the month of November and ends in the month of March, explained Rajesh, the caretaker at the inspection bungalow in Puttur, a taluk in Dakshina Kannada famous for the sport.

On July 4, 2017, the President of India at the time, Pranab Mukherjee, had passed an ordinance to legalize the sport. However, in light of the Jallikattu issue, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the larger animal welfare Community wanted a ban on the buffalo races.

Therefore, prior to the start of the sport on November 11, 2017, PETA filed a petition in Supreme Court on September 22, 2017 asking for a ban on the sport, stating that the animals are harmed over the course of the races, explained Manu Rai, a resident of Puttur.

Peta indeed filed multiple complaints and pleaded against the sport, on the grounds of animal-cruelty – as mentioned in their official report.

Shetty said that once the Karnataka government finalizes the regulations, the sport will be mandated to follow the same.

Purandar, a resident of Puttur, said, “It is a vibrant festival. It cheers up everyone to see the trained buffaloes racing on the muddy tracks.”

The sport is an age-old tradition that has been celebrated for centuries in the coastal areas of Dakshina Kannada. “It is not only a mode of recreation but also a harvest ritual for the farming community,” said Rajesh.

He added that a ban on the sport due to people’s misconceptions about Kambala —  that the animals are mistreated — will not only agitate the community but will also validate those misconceptions.