After witnessing raging protests and large-scale damage to property on Monday, an uneasy calm prevailed on Tuesday in Bengaluru even as protests resumed at Mandya and Mysuru in southern Karnataka over releasing of more Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu. In the wake of massive loss of property in Bengaluru and increasingly deteriorating law and order situation, the Karnataka government, on Tuesday, demanded additional forces from the Centre to tackle the situation on the ground.
On Monday, one person was killed and another injured in police firing in Bengaluru after violence erupted there and other parts of Karnataka following Supreme Court's modified order on sharing Cauvery water by the two riparian states.
Meanwhile, tempers were running high in Tamil Nadu as well, as sporadic incidents of anti-Kannada protests were reported from Chennai, Coimbatore and other parts of the state.
The apex court, modifying its 5 September order, had asked Karnataka to release a reduced amount of 12,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu till 20 September.
Karnataka limps back to normalcy amid curfew, sporadic protests
In Bengaluru, under prohibitory orders till Wednesday and where 16 localities still remain under curfew, there were palpable signs of normalcy returning, as city police assisted by Central forces kept a close vigil. A bus that was half burnt yesterday was torched once again today near New Timber layout and another vehicle was also set on fire near Tigalarapalya here. Both had Tamil Nadu registration number plates.
Sporadic protests were reported from various parts of the state like Mandya, Chitradurga, Ramanagara and Mysuru. In Chitradurga, a lorry with Tamil Nadu registration number was burnt, while in Ramanagara protesters held demonstrations in front of a farmhouse reportedly belonging to a daughter of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. Shooting of a Tamil film was stopped by protesters at Jaganmohan palace in Mysuru, police said.
Curfew was relaxed since morning for Muslims to offer Eid prayers at mosques and Idgah maidan in 16 sensitive localities where it was imposed on Monday night. Though schools, colleges, government and private offices and banks remained closed for Eid, several IT firms and back offices, which were working, advised their techies to work from homes in view of the simmering tension across the city.
Shops, markets, malls, hotels, restaurants, cinema theatres and commercial establishments observed an undeclared shutdown across the city due to fear of being attacked by protesters and anti-social elements.
Offices of IT giants TCS, Infosys and Wipro as also e-commerce majors Flipkart and Amazon remained closed in the city on Tuesday. Many employees were asked to work from home as the companies invoked business continuity plans to ensure there is no disruption to critical projects.
Buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws were off the roads, while metro rail service remained suspended till evening. Vehicular traffic on the 150 km-long Bengaluru-Mysuru highway was affected as hundreds of angry protesters, including farmers, traders and youths, staged demonstrations at Ramanagaram, Kengeri, Mandya and Srirangapatna against the Supreme Court's order to release more water to Tamil Nadu for farming when Karnataka has water only for drinking purpose in the region.
Additional forces deployed in Karnataka
An additional 700 riot control police personnel have been rushed to Karnataka to tackle the situation arising out of the protests over Cauvery river water sharing. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel have been sent to the violence-prone areas of Karnataka to assist the local administration to ensure peace, official sources said. With this, a total of 1,700 paramilitary personnel have been deployed in violence-hit areas of Karnataka for maintaining law and order.
Earlier in the day, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah said that in view of the three festivals being celebrated in the state, additional police forces have been deployed in the sensitive areas. He also said that the state government had sought additional 10 companies of RAF from the Central government.
In a video message through television channels, Siddaramaiah appealed to the people to remain calm as the state was facing hardship due to distress situation following deficit rains in the Cauvery basin this year. He also warned that miscreants will be dealt with strictly. "We have decided that we will impose law and order with an ‘iron hand’ so that there is no harm to the citizenry or to property," he said in his televised message.
The Chief Minister reassured the citizens that the government is committed to ensure their safety and promised that peace will be restored at the earliest. Siddaramaiah singled out Tamil speakers in reassuring them that the government is fully committed to protect them. "There will be no loss of property and no harm will come to you," he said.
Meanwhile, over 350 people have been arrested so far in Bengaluru, based on video evidence provided by media and police. The Karnataka Home Minister said that any efforts to vandalise property or disrupt law and order situation will be severely dealt with. He also said that kin of Umesh, who died in police firing on Monday, will be granted a financial assistance of Rs 10 lakh from state coffers, while reiterating that the firing was unavoidable. The mob had reportedly, tried to set a police jeep on fire on Monday, after which police had opened fire and shelled tear gas shells to control the protests.
Tough decision but we will comply, says Karnataka CM
After an emergency cabinet meeting to decide how to implement the apex court direction and deal with the violence over release of water, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, Monday's court order was the "most difficult" to follow, but it could not be disobeyed or rejected as it would be against the Constitution. He said the cabinet had a detailed discussion and after weighing the pros and cons "constitutionally, legally and politically" and keeping in mind the main Special Leave Petition challenging the Cauvery tribunal's final award coming up on 18 October, it was decided to obey the court's order. He said the first order passed on 5 September itself was difficult and yesterday's was "most difficult" to follow. "But we have accepted the federal set up and that the legislature, executive and judiciary should function in way complementary to one another," he said.
Siddaramaiah to meet Prime Minister on Wednesday
The Karnataka CM said, "I had written to the Prime Minister, seeking his intervention. Today (on Tuesday) our Chief Secretary contacted the Prime Minister's Office seeking his appointment immediately. Most probably, we will get it for tomorrow (Wednesday)."
"I will be meeting him seeking his intervention, because law and order in this will have a bearing not only on Karnataka, but also Tamil Nadu because of movement of people. I will request him to call Chief Ministers of both the states to decide on this issue," he said.
Outlining key problems, complicating the issue, Siddarmiah also said that in the absence of a national water policy, it has become increasingly difficult to solve such issues. "I’m going to raise this with the PM," he told reporters.
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister had expressed pain over the developments in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and appealed for peace while underlining that violence cannot provide solution to any problem. He asserted that the dispute can only be solved within the legal ambit and "breaking the law is not a viable alternative". On Monday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh called up chief ministers of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and assured them all Central assistance in handling the law and order situation in the two states which have been hit by violence over Cauvery dispute.
Protests continue in Tamil Nadu as well
Fringe outfits like Naam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) continued to hold agitations outside Kannada establishments and businesses in several parts of the state but no major account of violence or injury were reported.
In Chennai, unidentified men pelted stones at an ATM of Karnataka Bank, damaging the glass panes, police said. Activists of NMK held protests outside hotels owned by natives of Karnataka in different places in Chennai and around 12 people were arrested when they tried to enter the premises at Mylapore.
At Coimbatore, at least 30 NMK activists, led by its district secretary Wahab, raised slogans against Karnataka and went to Karnataka Association hall in Tatabad, police said. However, they were stopped near the Association building and arrested.
Similarly at Neyveli, police foiled protestors' bid to burn an effigy of Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramiah and detained activists of the Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi.
Trade bodies urge end to violence as business remains disrupted in Karnataka
A traders' body announced holding of a day-long bandh on 16 September against attacks on commercial establishments in Karnataka in the wake of the ongoing Cauvery crisis. AM Vikramaraja, president, Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangankalin Peramaippu (Federation of Tamil Nadu Traders' Association) claimed that Tamil traders, lorry and bus operators had incurred Rs 2,000 crore loss in the protest by Kannada groups, targeting commercial establishments,besides torching vehicles.
Commercial establishments owing allegiance to the Federation would down shutters on Friday, he said while appealing for the support of other trade bodies also.
Moreover, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Tamil Nadu urged Prime Minister Modi to intervene and hold talks with both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for an amicable settlement. "The violence including burning and damaging of more than 50 buses and many other vehicles bearing Tamil Nadu registration and also torching of properties belonging to Tamilians is deplorable," chamber president Vanitha Mohan said in a statement.
Cauvery dispute causes Rs 25,000 crore loss to Karnataka
Karnataka is estimated to have suffered a loss of around Rs 22,000-25,000 crore with the wide-spread agitation hitting transport services and businesses, according to Assocham. The industry body further said that violence in the state capital and other parts of Karnataka has "severely dented" the image of Bengaluru as the Silicon Valley of India, which is home to many of the Fortune 500 companies, making a fervent appeal for peace in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
According to Assocham, widespread loss would accrue to IT and ITeS facilities due to poor attendance for the last few days and the inter-state tourism particularly involving pilgrims and domestic travellers has been affected. Cancellation of air tickets have also been reported to and from Bengaluru, it said.
Likewise, industrial production, movement of cargo and retail trade including malls, cinema halls and restaurants have been halted. "All these losses would run between Rs 22,000 crore and Rs 15,000 crore, besides of course immense damage to the goodwill of the state as an attractive investment destination," the chamber said.
With inputs from agencies