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Karnataka farmers up in arms

india Updated: Feb 06, 2007 18:25 IST
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Farmers across Karnataka on Tuesday blocked road and rail traffic as more than a dozen towns observed shutdown to protest Monday's verdict of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal (CWDT).

Much of the unrest was along the Bangalore-Mysore, Bangalore-Tumkur and Bangalore-Hassan routes.

In the state capital Bangalore, all educational institutions remained closed, while nearly 200 people were arrested for violation of prohibitory orders.

The state government postponed to Wednesday an all-party meeting to decide the future course of action against the verdict, as a mark of respect to Congress legislator UT Fareed, who died in Mangalore on Tuesday morning.

The government joined the protest by cancelling all buses headed for destinations in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Kannada film industry too threw in its lot with the state government, calling off shows of Tamil movies in the state capital and other cities. Cable television operators continued to block Tamil channels in the city fearing attacks by Kannada activists. News and entertainment channels, which were blacked out on Monday, resumed service on Tuesday morning, giving respite to viewers.

This morning, farmers and members of Kannada Rakshana Vedike, a pro-Kannada outfit, blocked the 160-km Bangalore-Mysore highway at several places including Ramanagaram, the assembly constituency of the Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy. "Only peaceful protests, demonstrations and rallies are being allowed. Extra forces have been rushed to the three districts in the Cauvery river basin, " Director General of Police (DGP) KR Srinivasan, told this correspondent.

According to reports reaching the police headquarters here, the protestors were using huge boulders, burning tyres, and stationing tractors and bullock carts on the roads to block the highway and roads between Bangalore-Hassan and Bangalore-Tumkur.

In the state capital, the city police commissioner N Achyut Rao said patrolling has been intensified in areas where Tamil-speaking people reside in large numbers.

Meanwhile, a pro-Kannada legislator Mr Vital Nagaraj (leader of Kannada Vatal Paksha) has given call for statewide bandh on February 8.

On Monday, the Janata Dal (S)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition in Karnataka said it would press for a review of the verdict handed out by the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal even as more than a thousand Kannada protagonists and farmers were taken into custody for holding up road and rail traffic in the state capital and other parts of the state on Monday. The state capital was enveloped by an eerie calm with schools and several info-tech and ITES companies declaring a holiday this afternoon, wary of a repeat of the rioting and arson witnessed over the sensitive issue in December 1991.

The tribunal has ordered Karnataka to ensure monthly release of water of the Cauvery totalling 192 TMC ft to Tamil Nadu during a normal monsoon year at the inter-state point identified as Billigundlu gauge and discharge station located on the common border. Under the monthly schedule, Tamil Nadu would get 10 tmc ft in June, 34 in July, 50 in August, 40 in September, 22 in October, 15 in November, 8 in December, 3 in January and 2.5 tmc ft each in February, March, April and May.

The tribunal's final order, however was criticised by the coalition government as "shocking". "We are committed to filing a review petition (before the Tribunal) against today's order," deputy chief minister Mr BS Yediyurappa told the legislative assembly. His senior BJP colleague and Irrigation Minister KS Eswarappa said in the legislative assembly, "We are shocked at the verdict. Earlier, our state was asked to release 180 TMC ft at Billigundlu station, but now that figure has been raised to 192 TMC ft. (EOM).

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