Police halts Tonga-race in Malerkotla for cruelty and betting

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Malerkotla, Feb 13 (UNI) Police today stopped the traditional Tonga-race here after local social groups complained of ''betting'' and cruelty against animals, as a mare had recently died during the event.

However, when the police reached the site to stop the unauthorised sport, angry organisers began shouting and pelting stones on the cops causing minor injuries to some of them.

Malerkotla DSP Gurpreet Singh told UNI that at least a dozen people were booked under Section 353 IPC for manhandling the police and also under Cruelty Against Animals Act.

Cash amounting to Rs 25,000 was also recovered from the organisers, which apparenltly was the ''betting'' money.

The ''Tonga-race'', though being organised for a long time here, caused a major public outcry and drew the ire of animal lovers after a mare ''Billo'' began to bleed through her mouth and later died during the 45 km race to Khanna in December last.

This time, the race was cut short to 15 km to Bagrian village' and the award for the winner was kept at Rs 50,000.

Usually two horses or mares strapped with empty tongas were pushed into the race with many people, mostly ''cheering betters'' following on the motorbikes.

As the race route often included the highway or a major road, it also posed a traffic hazard, the DSP added.

UNI XC JN PY HT1910

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