Cauvery turmoil: Bengaluru city, Old Mysuru region hold total bandh; little or no effect elsewhere in Karnataka

Ten thousand people will go to Delhi on October 5 to drive home a point with the President of India on Karnataka’s claim over Cauvery water

By M Raghuram
Published: Friday 29 September 2023

Photo: Rajath RCauvery turmoil: Bengaluru city, Old Mysuru region hold total bandh; little or no effect elsewhere in Karnataka

A war cry was sounded in 11 districts of the Cauvery river basin against the bureaucracy and political dispensation by Karanata farmers and Kannada language activists on September 29, 2023, during a pan-Karnataka bandh.

Chamarajanagar, Mysuru, Mandya, Ramnagara, Tumukuru, Bengaluru urban, and Bengaluru rural experienced total bandh; these are the districts that are directly affected in the present interstate Cauvery River water-sharing imbroglio.

Protests were also held in Hassan, Chikkamagaluru, Chitradurga, Davanagere, Koppal, Haveri, and Belagavi. The coastal region did not show any effects of the bandh, as not even a single protest was held in the three districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Uttara Kannada.

The Shivamogga district also did not heed the pan-Karnataka bandh call.

The bandh was called by the Karnataka Rakshna Vedike. Vedike activist Vatal Nagaraj claimed that 1,900 different organisations participated in the bandh, and over 600 places in the Old Mysuru region experienced some kind of protest.

Bengaluru city, Mysuru, Mandya, Chamarajanagar, and Ramanagar districts were totally shut off for the day.

In Bengaluru city, the busy KempeGowda Bus terminus, Cantonment, KR Market, business places like Koramangala, South End Circle, Brigade Road, MG Road, Commercial Street, Shivajinagar, Malleshwaram, Vijaynagar, and almost all other localities wore a deserted look.

Though the KSRTC and BMTC services normally operated their schedules, they were plying with zero or scarce occupancy. Even the Bengaluru Metro Rail services operated normally with rescheduled services.

The Karnataka government had sent out an order to all government services and offices to work normally during the bandh. However, educational institutions, both government and private were advised not to operate.

The government had also clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the IPC, but protesters showed scant respect and crowded public places with protests, processions, and sloganeering.

The protestors began their activities at 8 am and started gathering near the town hall. But the large contingent of police arrested them en masse, loaded them into the waiting buses, and discharged them in different parts of the city. However, it allowed those who gathered near Freedom Park to hold their protests.

But as the day progressed, reports of protests filtered in from across the city and law and order took a beating. The iconic ‘traffic snarls’ of Bengaluru city were not seen anywhere, despite the bandh, as private vehicles were off the roads. There were snarls though in Dr Rajkumar Road, BG Flyover, KG Road, Yeshwanthpur Market Area, and a few other commercial places.

In Attibele in Anekal taluk, even children took to the streets. They appealed to the government not to jeopardise the water security of their families by releasing water to Tamil Nadu, as they could not go to school when their families were struggling to get their share of water.

In Hassan, advocates boycotted the courts and took to the streets in support of the bandh. They alleged that the state government had given extra-constitutional powers to the police to prevent people from holding democratic protests and demonstrations.

In Gadag, pro-Kannada activists organised the ‘last rites of all the 28 Members of Parliament’, symbolising they were inactive. In Bengaluru city, Kannada activists performed the ‘last rites’ of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin. 

In Shivamogga, Kalburgi, Koppal, and Belagavi, the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (farmers associations) organised roadblocks.

Karnataka Rakshana Vedike activists, in their hundreds, tried to enter the Kempe Gowda International Airport but were quickly sent away by airport security and the police.

The Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce had declared full support for the Karnataka bandh. Many artists, including Shivaraj Kumar, Darshan, Murali Krishna, Upendra, Vijay Raghavendra and office bearers of the Chamber, took part and added colour to the event at Freedom Park.

The general narrative that got traction during the entire day was that the Cauvery Water Management Committee (CWMC) and Cauvery Water Regulation Authority (CWRA) had not felt or studied the ground realities before quantifying the water to be released to Tamil Nadu.

Vatal Nagaraj, who spoke to Down To Earth (DTE), said:

We do not want any tensions with our neighbouring states on water. But this time, due to the failure of the monsoon, Bengaluru’s domestic water security has been greatly compromised. Soon, many areas of Bengaluru will get ‘dry’. But Tamil Nadu wants water for irrigation to cultivate a second crop, which is unjust. The CWRA and CWMC had not assessed the situation in our reservoirs. 

Veteran Kannada activist Narayana Gowda told DTE, that on October 10, over 100,000 people from Bengaluru will send a letter signed in their own blood to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the Cauvery issue. On October 5, 10,000 people will go to Delhi to drive home a point with the President of India.

Gowda alleged that the state and central governments were playing hide and seek in the Cauvery water dispute. He told Chief Minister S Siddaramiah and his Deputy DK Shivakumar to stop this political ‘jingoism’ and convince the central government of the reality.

Activists and protesters used props like brooms, empty vessels, and empty pet bottles and even emptied mineral water drums into the Cauvery river at Srirangapatna in Mandya district. 

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