Cauvery row: Bandh brings life to standstill in Bangalore

Protests spearheaded by Kannada outfits over release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu swept through the region during the dawn-to-dusk bandh Saturday.

Bangalore: Life came to a virtual standstill here and in Cauvery basin districts as protests spearheaded by Kannada outfits over release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu swept through the region during the dawn-to-dusk bandh on Saturday.

The bandh received widespread support here and in the Cauvery-fed districts of Mandya, Mysore and Chamarajnagar and was near total in Hassan.

Bangalore, whose drinking water needs are met by Cauvery, wore a deserted look as the shut down supported by all political parties, trade bodies, cinema industry and other organisations was complete, with shops, malls, pharmacies, movie halls, fuel stations and business establishments closed.

Cable TV operators pulled the plug on all entertainment channels during the 6 am-6 pm bandh to show their solidarity.

Film shooting was suspended for the day as movie stars including Rajkumar brothers -- Raghavendra, Shiva and Puneet -- and Upendra and Ambareesh joined the street protests.

Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce joined the protest by submitting a memorandum to the Governor.

Kannada outfits said the bandh was to drive home the point that Karnataka, facing its worst drought in 40 years, does not have enough water for irrigation and drinking needs and so water release to Tamil Nadu was `unfair and unjustified.`

The bandh against release of 9,000 cusecs to Tamil Nadu till October 15 as per the directive of the Cauvery River Authority, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Supreme Court order to obey it, was largely peaceful, barring stray incidents of stone-pelting.

"The situation was by and large peaceful except for stray incidents of stone-pelting at some buses in the early hours of the day. Around 60 activists of various pro-Kannada outfits were taken into preventive custody," Additional Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Suneel Kumar said.

State-run buses were off the roads as the staff joined the stir, as were auto rickshaws. Kannada outfits organised street-corner protests at a number of places here, where burning of tyres on roads was a common scene today.

Anger was targetted at not only the Centre for the directive but also against the state government which was accused of failing to protect the state`s interests at the CRA and the Supreme Court.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to stop release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu and call for a report from the study team deputed to Karnataka to assess the situation in the Cauvery basin.

Krishna, who hails from the Cauvery heartland of Mandya, in a letter to Singh, said the situation is grim in Cauvery irrigation area and in Bangalore following depleted water level in reservoirs due to water release to Tamil Nadu.

As protesters attempted to detain trains, South Western Railway cancelled Mysore City-Bangalore passenger, Mysore-Bangalore passenger and Mysore-Bangalore-Mysore passenger trains.

Cauvery Hitarakshana Samithi president G Madegowda, whose relay hunger strike entered the third day today, demanded the immediate resignation of Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar for releasing water to Tamil Nadu.

Former chief minister BS Yeddyurappa continued his dharna for the second day and announced plans to stage the stir tomorrow also.

Supporters of Yedddyurappa allegedly assaulted a Kannada outfit activist in the city when he accused the former Chief Minister of indulging in politics on the Cauvery issue.

Amid the state-wide bandh, the study team deputed by the Centre visited some parts, including Hassan and Mysore in the Cauvery basin for an on-the-spot assessment of the water level in its reservoirs and the drought conditions.