The Bengaluru Bandh (strike) called by farmers from the Cauvery catchment area may not throw daily life out of gear on Tuesday, 26 September.
Groups and associations that were initially gung-ho about the bandh are now appearing less than enthusiastic.
Farmers in Karnataka announced the bandh to protest against the Karnataka government’s decision to adhere to the Supreme Court’s directive to obey the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA) in releasing 5,000 cusecs of Cauvery water every day to Tamil Nadu.
Some Opposition parties also showed solidarity with the farmers by extending their support to the bandh.
Withdrawal of support
The bandh call elicited strong support not only from the KSRTC Staff and Workers’ Federation but also from three associations representing autorickshaws and cab drivers, along with the Bruhath Bangalore Hotels’ Association.
However, each one of them withdrew their support on Monday, stating that they would register their protest for the Cauvery issue on Friday through the state-wide Karnataka bandh: They also announced that they would be functional on Tuesday.
Bruhath Bangalore Hotels’ Association President PC Rao declared on Monday morning that all hotels and hospitality facilities in Bengaluru would remain closed on Tuesday.
However, Rao changed his mind by evening and put out a video on social media stating he was withdrawing his earlier statement and declaring that all the hospitality establishments under the association — which represents the interests of more than 5,000 restaurants and hospitality chains — would remain open on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, schools and colleges — especially on the outskirts of Bengaluru and within its gram panchayat limits — declared holidays.
Most schools in the city will also stay closed, but a few schools have chosen to remain open as there were no concrete directions from either the Education Department or the state government.
Section 144 imposed
Bengaluru City’s Commissioner of Police (CP) B Dayananda said on Monday that no permission had been given for a bandh on Tuesday, and any kind of protest should be confined only to Freedom Park.
He added that the Bengaluru City Police was imposing Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) from midnight on Monday to maintain the law-and-order situation.
The CP also said the cops would keep an eye out for activists going around harassing commuters or ecommerce delivery personnel, or forcibly closing shops or other establishments.
If anyone was caught engaging in such activities, stringent legal action would be taken against them, he said.
The organisers of the Bengaluru Bandh, which initially had around 80 organisations’ backing, had been mobilising thousands of people from various other districts to come to Bengaluru from Monday midnight for protests.
They had reportedly been planning to conduct a massive rally from the Town Hall towards Freedom Park on Tuesday morning, besides laying siege to the chief minister’s residence.
However, with the city police imposing Section 144 of the CrPC and making elaborate security arrangements, those plans may not materialise.
Strong police presence
The city police have deployed 60 platoons of the Karnataka State Reserve Police (KSRP), 40 platoons of the City Armed Reserves (CAR), two companies of Rapid Action Force (RAF), water jets, and commando vehicles across strategic locations in Bengaluru.
They have also planned route marches along stretches of sensitive areas — especially the Tamilian pockets within the city.
Police sources also said that they would deploy personnel from Monday midnight and keep vigil throughout Tuesday, picking up leaders of outfits who come to Bengaluru for protests. These leaders would be either detained or sent back to their hometowns, a senior police officer said.
Essential services like public transport are expected to be functional, with BMTC and KSRTC buses as well as metro services operational on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, auto-rickshaws and cab aggregators like Ola and Uber have also withdrawn from the bandh, and decided to be operational on Tuesday.
Other essential services like hospitals, petrol bunks, medical shops, and gas cylinder deliveries would also function normally.
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Open or closed?
As for the IT sector, the Outer Ring Road Companies Association (ORRCA) said it was aware of the importance of the call for the bandh.
“However, the ORRCA has not issued any directive to its member companies regarding the bandh,” ORRCA General Manager Krishna Kumar Gowda told South First.
“We would like to encourage our member companies to evaluate the situation, considering potential business implications. We recommend that individual companies make decisions that align with the best interests of their employees, operations, and business objectives,” he added.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide updates if we receive any guidance from the authorities,” said Gowda.
However, all major traders associations in and around KR Market, Chikkapete, and Avenue Road have chosen to remain closed on Tuesday.
Trade activist Sajjan Raj Mehta told South First: “We traders have supported Kannadigas and Karnataka on the Cauvery water issue. This time, too, we are extending our full support and have decided to shut all our shops — garments, textiles, cloth merchants, electrical merchants, jewellery, paper and stationery, electronics, iron and steel, stainless steel, and almost all trades.”
Meanwhile, some shops and establishments in other areas of Bengaluru supported the bandh and chose to remain closed, while others stated that they would remain open.
Some of the other moral supporters of the Bengaluru bandh were the Sandalwood Producers’ Association and the Private Transport Operators’ Federation. However, the latter has decided to remain operational on Tuesday.
There is ambiguity among the owners of health and fitness establishments on whether they have to remain open on Tuesday.
While some salons, spas, and gymnasiums have decided to remain closed, a few others told South First that they would assess the situation and accordingly make a decision.
Shivakumar’s balancing act
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister and Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) chief DK Shivakumar questioned the effectiveness of the bandh and emphasised the importance of preserving the reputation of “Brand Bengaluru”.
Accusing the Opposition parties of politicising the Cauvery issue, he said the Congress government in Karnataka was committed to protecting the interests of farmers in the state.
He also urged people not to call for a Bengaluru Bandh, but expressed support for a peaceful protest that would not inconvenience the general public.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Cauvery Farmers’ Association on Monday urged its own state government to take appropriate measures through the Centre to ban Tuesday’s bandh in Bengaluru.
The association’s general secretary PR Pandian, accompanied by a few supporters, staged a sudden protest in Chennai condemning Karnataka for not releasing water.
Holding the national flag, Pandian said the Karnataka government’s stance and the proposed bandh on Tuesday were “reprehensible”.