Updated: September 13, 2016 8:51:16 am
A bandh called on September 9 by pro-Karnataka groups to protest a Supreme Court order to the state to release water from four reservoirs on the Cauvery River to Tamil Nadu had passed off peacefully with no major incidents of violence. There were stray reports that a Tamil youth who bad-mouthed the bandh on social media had been roughed up by local Karnataka chauvinists. With the bandh having passed off peacefully, it seemed life was back to normal with schools and colleges opening across Karnataka, even in Mandya, the epicentre of the protests.
However before noon on Monday, reports of targetted attacks on Tamil Nadu-registered vehicles and Tamil-owned business establishments in Bengaluru and Mysuru spread like wildfire. Within hours, a bandh-like atmosphere had returned to the state.
The incidents on Monday had little to do with a Supreme Court order for Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu till September 20 instead of the 15,000 cusecs per day ordered for release until September 15 by its earlier order. The violence was a direct result of the fanning of chauvinist emotions in both states by reports on television news channels.
Even before the Supreme Court began hearing a plea by Karnataka on Monday to modify the September 5 order for release of water, the portents of trouble were evident in the state. Early on Monday, some television news channels showed images of the New Woodlands Hotel in Chennai, owned by a family from Karnataka, being attacked with petrol bombs. Reports said the Kannadiga-owned hotel was targetted because Tamils were roughed up during the Cauvery protests. Many local channels also showed images of a Kannadiga being roughed up by Tamil activists in Rameswaram and the vandalising of buses from Karnataka.
Within an hour of these incidents being reported on local TV channels, Vatal Nagaraj, a veteran leader who exhorts Kannada chauvinism, told a local channel, “We will also show them” clearly indicating retaliatory incidents in Karnataka. The incidents in Tamil Nadu were an alleged reaction to images shown on Tamil channels of a Tamil youth being roughed up in Bengaluru on Friday. “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,” Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said in a letter on Monday to his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa while assuring protection of Tamil people in Karnataka and calling for the protection of Kannadigas in Tamil Nadu.
With a large number of anti-social elements who have lost currency in recent years looking at cashing in on passions over the Cauvery River dispute with little concern for rule of law or the real issues of water sharing, it is time for politicians on both sides to be statesmen and prevent further fanning of emotions that would reopen old wounds in Tamil Nadu-Karnataka relations.
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