More than 800 pro-Kannada groups have extended support to Friday's Karnataka bandh, which is likely to hit essential services across the state. The bandh call, given by farmers' unions in the Cauvery basin, is to protest against the Supreme Court direction to Karnataka to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
The Supreme Court on Monday directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu daily for the next 10 days (ending September 12), triggering massive protests across Karnataka. Inter-state buses went off the road, schools and colleges were closed, theatres screening Tamil movies were shut down, and the Tamil speaking people in Bengaluru rushed to the home minister seeking protection.
Expressing solidarity with Friday's bandh, taxis, autos and buses will go off the road while hotels and cinema halls will remain closed. Private schools and colleges have declared a holiday as a precautionary measure. The cable operators have extended their support by blacking out 52 Tamil channels. More than 25,000 police personnel have been deployed in Bengaluru alone and 15,000 in rest of the state.
The Karnataka government has earned the wrath of people for "offering" to release 10,000 cusecs of water daily for five days in its affidavit before the Supreme Court. Tamil Nadu had filed an interim plea seeking release of its share of water as per the final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah tried to pacify the angry farmers by releasing water to their canals. He also assured that the state would file a petition before the apex court seeking to modify its order. "We will file a review petition before the court citing our difficulties," said Siddaramaiah, appealing to the people to desist from violent protests.
Water resources minister M.B. Patil expressed hope that the supervisory committee, which is to take a call on further water release, will rightly assess the grim situation in the state.
According to the government sources, Karnataka needs 75 tmc of water for agriculture (47 tmc) and drinking water to Bengaluru and Mysuru (28 tmc). But there is only 46.7 tmc of water across its four reservoirs which has to last till June 2017. "We had to comply with the SC order as defying it would amount to contempt of court. As the final hearing on the special leave petitions (SLP) filed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala challenging the final award of the Tribunal, is coming up on October 18, state's counsel Fali S. Nariman has warned the government against any move that would adversely impact the verdict," Patil said.
The opposition parties have joined the protest accusing the government of having mislead them during the all-party meeting held last week. "The government did not take opposition parties into confidence while offering to release water. The legal team has failed to effectively present Karnataka's case before the apex court," said leader of the opposition Jagadish Shettar.
JD(S) state president H.D. Kumaraswamy, who joined the agitating farmers in Mandya, sent out a warning to the government against filing any case against the protesting farmers, as was the case during the Mahadayi agitation.