ONE person was killed and two injured after police resorted to firing in the Hegganahalli area of west Bengaluru on Monday evening to disperse a mob of protesters who set fire to a police patrol jeep as incidents of violence linked to the Cauvery water-sharing dispute with Tamil Nadu erupted in Karnataka.
Attacks targeting vehicles and businesses linked to Tamil Nadu were reported from around Bengaluru and Mysuru following reports of tit-for-tat attacks in the neighbouring state.
Rapid Action Force personnel opened fire on a mob at Hegganahalli near Laggere, leading to the death of a 25-year-old youth identified as Umesh Kumar, a factory worker. Two more youths with bullet injuries were admitted in Lakshmi Multispecialty Hospital, along with a policeman with injuries from stone-throwing.
With curfew imposed in seven police station limits, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah sent a letter to his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa calling for support in preventing escalation of the situation by protecting Kannadigas in Tamil Nadu. He assured protection for Tamils in Karnataka.
The violence at Hegganahalli occurred at around 7 pm when the mob tried to set fire to around 30 trucks on a ring road connecting to the main highways around Bengaluru. Police lathi-charged the mob before opening fire after the jeep was set afire.
“Several rounds were fired in the air and a few at the mob. A 25-year-old youth, who suffered a bullet injury, died. He was a resident of Hegganahalli and a native of Tumkur district. Several policemen were also injured in the incident,’’ said a police officer.
Earlier, pro-Karnataka protesters targeted businesses from Tamil Nadu, including transport firms, hotels and retail outlets. More than 30 buses belonging to KPN Travels from Coimbatore were set on fire at Dwarakanatha Nagar near Kengeri. Around 25 trucks are estimated to have been set ablaze by protesters across the city, and a number of two-wheelers and cars with Tamil Nadu registration plates attacked across the state.
Bengaluru police imposed prohibitory orders under section 144 of CrPC from 5 pm on Monday. However, protesters gathered in large numbers at various points in the city and attacked Tamil Nadu-registration vehicles. Reports of torching of vehicles also emerged from Mandya district. A shop belonging to a Tamil family in Pandavapura was attacked, police said.
At IT firms in Bengaluru, employees were asked not travel by road if they were using Tamil Nadu-registered vehicles. Employees of Infosys Ltd, who used office buses to return from work to parts of north and west Bengaluru on Monday evening, were stopped on the NICE Expressway and forced to get down. The employees were also forced by pro-Karnataka activists to shout slogans, saying that Cauvery belongs to Karnataka, before being allowed to proceed on foot.
Following the violence on Monday evening, police imposed curfew in seven station limits — Rajgopal Nagar, Kamakshipalya, Vijaynagar, Byatarayanpura, Kengeri, Magadi Road and Rajajinagar — in the north and western parts of Bengaluru.
The attacks occurred even as the Supreme Court heard a plea by Karnataka to modify a September 5 order directing the state to release 15,000 cusecs of water from Cauvery to Tamil Nadu for 10 days. The apex court passed a modified order asking Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu till September 20. The order, however, did not have direct bearing on the violence that was already underway in Bengaluru and Mysuru, said police.
The attacks caused panic among the Tamil-speaking population in Karnataka as it brought back memories of the Cauvery water-related riots in the state in 1991 when 18 people died.
In his letter to Jayalalithaa, which was made public, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said that the cycle of violence was the result of local media channels in Tamil Nadu overplaying an incident of an attack in Bengaluru on a Tamil youth on Saturday.
“It has also come to my notice that an incident involving a youth by name Santhosh in Bengaluru has been blown out of proportion by media channels in Tamil Nadu and this is likely to incite passions and violence against Kannada speaking people,’’ Siddaramaiah said in his letter.
A case has been registered in the attack and the matter is being probed, he said.
Early signs of violence were evident when veteran leader of the Kannada Chaluvali Paksha, Vatal Nagaraj — who heads a collective of pro-Kannada groups agitating over the Cauvery issue — warned of retaliatory attacks. Later, Nagaraj met Siddaramaiah.
The pro-Kannada groups have proposed a padayatra from Bengaluru to Mysuru on Tuesday, and a rail roko has been planned by activists led by Nagaraj on September 15.