Bengaluru bandh: Farmer leader leads march, among protesters detained
The Supreme Court’s refusal last week to stay the CWRC’s order directing Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu triggered protests.
Farmer leader Kurubur Shanthakumar was among protesters who were detained in Bengaluru on Tuesday as he led a march under the banner of Karnataka Jala Samrakshana Samithi, an umbrella organisation of farmers, amid a bandh call against the release of the Cauvery River waters to Tamil Nadu.
Police said no incidents of violence have been reported so far and that the protesters were detained as they did have permission for the march.
The Supreme Court’s refusal last week to stay the Cauvery Water Management Authority and Regulation Committee’s order directing Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu triggered protests. Farmer and Kannada outfits have been staging protests in the Cauvery river basin districts of Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagara, Ramanagara, and Bengaluru and urging Karnataka against releasing water.
Karnataka has maintained it was not in a position to release water, citing its needs for drinking water, irrigation, and deficit monsoon rains.
A section of transport workers backed the bandh while the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation and Metro services operated as usual even as the authorities barred gatherings of over five people. Essential services such as hospitals, nursing homes, medical shops, petrol pumps, etc functioned as usual.
Disagreements among protesting groups resulted in separate calls for bandhs on Tuesday and Friday and promoted associations, including those of hotel owners to withdraw their backing for the protest. Associated Management of English Medium School in Karnataka announced the closure of schools in Bengaluru on Tuesday in view of the bandh call.
Former lawmaker Vatal Nagaraj, who also withdrew support for the bandh on Tuesday, said national highways will instead be shut and they will also try to close the airport down on Friday as part of their state-wide protest.
Janata Dal (Secular) or JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy condemned the detention of the protesters as unjust while referring to Congress’s march in violation of the Covid norms in January 2022 for a reservoir on the Cauvery at Mekedatu to meet drinking water requirements of Bengaluru. “On one side, you marched backing Mekadatu [reservoir] but you are arresting those protesting for the right over the Cauvery water,” he said in a post in Kannada on social media platform X. “Is there one justice for Congress in Karnataka and another justice for Kannadigas?”
He asked if Congress leaders could undertake a protest march violating Covid rules, then why cannot Kannadigas peacefully protest for their lifeline, the Cauvery River. “The farmers protesting peacefully have been detained. This is condemnable. Is this the government of Kannadigas? Is it a regime like [Tamil Nadu chief minister MK] Stalin’s? Whose interests are Kannadigas serving? The protesters, the farmers, must be released immediately.”
He called for stopping the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu. Kumaraswamy called the ruling Congress the B team of Tamil Nadu’s governing Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and JD(S) backed the bandh.
Additional police forces were deployed and prohibitory orders were issued around midnight ahead of it. Bengaluru Police chief B Dayananda cited court orders and said no permission for the bandh or procession was granted. “No one can forcefully implement the bandh by using force, other than in cases where someone wants to observe it voluntarily.”