For the 52-year-old Rajendra Deka from Hajo in lower Assam, this time round Bhogali Bihu, the traditional harvest festival of Assam held on the day of Makar Sankrantri, has been incomplete.Deka did celebrate Uruka–the grand feast with family members, woke up early, burned Meji, the traditional bonfire and danced around with friends on Bihu numbers. But he could not witness the greatest attraction of Bhogali Bihu, the 400-year-old bulbul (songbird) fight that draws thousand of people across the state to Deka’s town Hajo, 40 kilometres away from Guwahati.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>On Thursday, the Gauhati High Court stayed its own earlier order of allowing traditional bulbul bird fight at Shri Hayariba Madhav Temple, while hearing a petition by the Animal Welfare Board of India. The earlier order of the single judge bench of the high court had allowed bulbul fights.”From childhood in every Bhogali Bihu, the prime attraction of Hajo is the bulbul fight. This has been passed on for generations by our forefather. The Court had to consider that law is now coming in the way of religious and cultural belief of thousands of people of Assam. Without bulbul fight Bihu is not complete for any Assamese,” Deka said.”Since the High Court has issued an order not to organise the bulbul fight we have decided to cancel it. We will fight it legally in the court of law. Unlike bull fights and other animal fights across the country, here birds are not captive always nor are they hurt. If they get hurt they are nursed and left free after Bihu is over,” said Shiva Prasad Sarma the Doloi (Chief priest) of the Panchatirtha Parichalona Samiti, the committee that runs the historic Shri Hayariba Madhav temple.Sarma has launched an indefinite hunger trike against the HC’s decision.Meanwhile, a Guwahati based news channel has aired visuals of bulbul fight being organised ‘discreetly’ at few homes in Hajo.Over 100 families in Hajo, a small town known as the religious confluence centre of Assam, are engaged in rearing the bulbul birds for the annual fight which did not take place this year.”We hope that Shri Hayariba Madhav Temple at Hajo will implement this order and celebrate a cruelty-free Bihu. This day will go down in the history as the most victorious day for animal welfare,” said NG Jayasimha, member, Animal Welfare Board of India and managing director of Humane Society International, in a press statement.

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Assam celebrates Bihu sans 400-year-old bulbul fight