Bengaluru: Bengaluru, the capital city of Karnataka, is witnessing a series of protests and bandhs over the Cauvery water dispute with Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court had ordered Karnataka to release 177.25 tmcft of water to Tamil Nadu in a year, which has angered the farmers and pro-Kannada groups in the state. They are demanding that the state government should not comply with the order and protect the interests of the people of Karnataka.
To express their dissent, two different groups have called for two separate bandhs this week. The first one is by the ‘Karnataka Water Conservation Committee’, a coalition of farmer unions and other organizations, which has announced a Bengaluru bandh on Tuesday, September 26. The second one is by the ‘Kannada Okkuta’, an umbrella organisation of pro-Kannada outfits, which has declared a statewide bandh on Friday, September 29.
However, there is confusion and division among the supporters of these bandhs, as some of them have decided to join both, while others have opted for only one. The ‘Karnataka Water Conservation Committee’ has claimed that it has received support from many organizations for Tuesday’s bandh and has planned to stage a sit-in protest at Freedom Park in Bengaluru. The committee has also said that it will submit a memorandum to the state government and the Chief Minister, and will decide on further action based on their response.
On the other hand, the ‘Kannada Okkuta’ has requested the ‘Karnataka Water Conservation Committee’ to postpone its bandh and join them on Friday for a unified protest. The ‘Kannada Okkuta’ has said that it has organized more than 50 bandhs across the state in the past and that its fight is for the whole of Karnataka. The ‘Kannada Okkuta’ has also said that it will not support Tuesday’s bandh.
The impact of these bandhs on the normal life of Bengaluru and other parts of Karnataka is expected to be significant, as many essential services and businesses have announced their closure or suspension. The city police have imposed Section 144 in the entire city, which prohibits the assembly of more than four people in public places. Schools and colleges have also declared holidays on both Tuesday and Friday.
The transport sector is likely to be affected by these bandhs, as many auto and taxi associations and unions have extended their support to Tuesday’s bandh. The KSRTC Staff and Workers Federation has also asked BMTC employees to strike from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday. However, the Ola-Uber Drivers Association has said that it will not support Tuesday’s bandh, but will join Friday’s bandh. The metro services are expected to run normally on both days.
The hotel industry has also withdrawn its support for Tuesday’s bandh, citing confusion and inconvenience to customers. The Hotel Owners Association has said that all hotels and restaurants will remain open on Tuesday. However, it is not clear whether they will support Friday’s bandh or not.
The Cauvery water dispute has been a long-standing issue between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which share the river basin along with Kerala and Puducherry. The dispute dates back to the agreements made in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and Mysore Kingdom. The dispute escalated in 1990 when Tamil Nadu filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking the formation of a tribunal to adjudicate the matter. The Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal was set up in 1991 and gave its final award in 2007, which was challenged by both states in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court modified the award in 2018 and reduced Karnataka’s share of water by 14.75 tmcft. However, the implementation of the order has been marred by protests and violence in both states.