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Bengaluru tense after violent Cauvery protests, 15,000 cops deployed

CauveryWaterDispute Updated: Sep 13, 2016 11:49 IST
KV Lakshmana
Cauvery water dispute

Firefighters trying to douse a fire in Tamil Nadu-bound buses after they were torched by pro-Kannada activists during a protest over Cauvery water row.(PTI Photo)

India’s IT capital Bengaluru woke up to a tense morning on Tuesday with curfew and shoot-at-sight orders imposed in several parts of the city after violence erupted across Karnataka over a decades-long Cauvery water-sharing dispute with Tamil Nadu.

Authorities reported no overnight violence after one man was killed and another injured as rioters set at least 30 buses ablaze and vandalised shops. Metro and bus services are likely to suspended for the second straight day on Tuesday.

But fear continued to spread through video footage of flames leaping out of charred vehicles and threats of attacks on Tamil people in Bengaluru circulating over WhatsApp, forcing local police to issue advisories.

“Videos of attacks on Kannada-speaking people in various parts of Tamil Nadu triggered violent protests in Bengaluru, Mysuru and Mandya,” said Karnataka home minister G Parameshawara. He appealed to the people not to believe in WhatsApp messages.

More than 15,000 security personnel patrolled sensitive areas in Bengaluru and will be out in full force on Tuesday, but the brunt of the violence was felt by Mysore and Mandya were scores of buses and trucks with Tamil Nadu registration plates were torched.

Karnataka chief minister S Sidhharamaiah called an emergency cabinet meeting at 11 a.m. to discuss the situation. Before that, at around 9 am, he has convened an all-party meeting.

Hundreds of commuters travelling between the states were stranded on highways as bus services were suspended on Monday and road travel declared unsafe. In Karnataka, men were checking vehicles for Tamil-speaking persons and attacking them, television reports said.

The violence erupted on Monday afternoon after the Supreme Court turned down Karnataka’s request to temporarily stop the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.

Anger against Tamil Nadu continued to simmer across Karnataka with the fear of tit-for-tat attacks on Kannadigas in the neighbouring state loomed large.

Hundreds of people shouted slogans against the perceived injustice meted out against Karnataka and threatened to escalate protests if the release of Cauvery water wasn’t stopped. Karnataka has demanded more central forces .

The demonstrations began after the Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu every day till September 20.

It rapped the state government for citing public unrest as a ground for seeking a modification of its earlier September 5 order to release 15,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu per day for 10 days. Karnataka indicated it will appeal against the order.

“Citizens cannot become a law unto themselves. Once the Supreme Court orders something, it is the obligation of the Executive (government) and citizens to obey,” said a bench of justice Dipak Misra and justice UU Lalit.

The bench -- which heard the petition on a holiday -- reduced the daily quantum of Cauvery water to be released by Karnataka but increased the duration of the order.

At the heart of the dispute is the 765-kilometre long river that originates in Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala. A British-era treaty governs water sharing between the two states but Karnataka says the award is unfair and demands a tripling of its share.

Tamil Nadu believes that it needs the water to sustain extensive farming and insists that Karnataka honour its commitment to providing sufficient water.

After Independence, the dispute has dragged on for decades with even a tribunal ruling failing to gather consensus.