The Union Ministry of Law and Justice has cleared the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill 2017, and thus legalising kambala. The bill will now be sent to the President for getting his assent.
In November 2016, the Karnataka high court had banned the kambala along with bull-cart race in the state while hearing a case filed by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) citing animal cruelty. The high court had stayed these traditional sports in view of the Supreme Court’s ban on jallikattu, a traditional bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu.
Following protests by people and kambala organisers, Karnataka Assembly had passed Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017 on February 13, 2017 to allow kambala, the traditional buffalo race and bullock-cart racing.
In April 2017, the Union Home Ministry asked the state government to modify or omit the phrase “subject to such other conditions as may be prescribed” in the sub-section 2 of section 3 of the Bill as this phrase would make it possible for the state government to include more sports involving animals through government notifications in the future. The state government made the modifications and sent it back to the union government.
Kambala is the traditional slush track buffalo race that is held annually in coastal districts of Karnataka to entertain rural people of the area. Slushy/marshy paddy field track is used for Kambala. The sports season generally starts in November and lasts till March. The contest generally takes place between two pairs of buffaloes, each pair race in two seprate wet rice fields tracks, controlled by a whip-lashing farmer. In the traditional form of Kambala, buffalo racing is non-competitive and buffalo pairs run one by one in paddy fields. Besides, there is also ritualistic approach as some agriculturists race their buffaloes as a means to thank the god for protecting their animals from disease. But in recent times, Kambala has become an organised rural sport.