The “Kannada Okkuta” — a coalition of Kannada organisations — is moving ahead with its dawn-to-dusk bandh on Friday, 29 September, in protest against the Karnataka government releasing Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu.
As part of this statewide bandh, scheduled from 6 am to 6 pm, a protest march is planned from Town Hall to Freedom Park in Bengaluru, and is expected to draw participants from various sections of society.
The organisers have emphasized that this bandh encompasses the entire state of Karnataka, and they intend to disrupt highways, toll booths, rail services, and even airport operations.
Over 1,900 organisations — including the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka State Film Theatres Association, Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, Ola and Uber Association, the Karnataka State Autorickshaw Drivers Association and various trade unions — have announced support for the Karnataka bandh.
Responding to the Karnataka Bandh, Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar and Minister for Home Affairs Dr G Parameshwara cautioned of action if anyone observed the bandh. They, however, noted that people were allowed to carry out demonstrations.
Bengaluru City Police Commissioner B Dayananda imposed a curfew under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) in Bengaluru from Thursday midnight.
Tomorrow, on 29th September 2023, several organizations in Karnataka are uniting for a state-wide bandh to protest against the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu. The Bengaluru Commissioner of Police emphasises on Supreme Court’s ruling that all forms of bandh are forbidden.… pic.twitter.com/wANHedBtct
— ಬೆಂಗಳೂರು ನಗರ ಪೊಲೀಸ್ BengaluruCityPolice (@BlrCityPolice) September 28, 2023
The Bengaluru bandh, organised on Tuesday by a coalition of farmers called the Karnataka Jala Samrakshana Samiti and supported by the BJP and the JD(S), garnered a partial response.
The protests were specifically aimed at the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, reflecting the ongoing concerns and disputes over water-sharing between the two states.
Despite protests from farmers and various associations, the Siddaramaiah government continues to comply with the Supreme Court order and ensures around 3,000-3,500 cusecs of water every day to Tamil Nadu.
However, the chief minister has announced that the state would challenge the recent Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC) recommendations before the Supreme Court.
On 26 September, CWRC recommended that Karnataka ensure 3,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu from 28 September to 15 October.
29 September Karnataka bandh: Transport, schools, businesses may be affected
Support for bandh
Kannada activist Vatal Nagaraj told reporters in Bengaluru on Thursday: “As we stand on the brink of the Karnataka bandh scheduled for Friday, we witness a remarkable wave of solidarity sweeping across our state.”
He noted: “Over 1,900 organisations and pro-Kannada groups have come forward, irrespective of their geographic origins, to support this cause. This overwhelming show of support signifies our collective determination to ensure the bandh’s triumph, transcending regional boundaries and resonating with the true spirit of Karnataka.”
He continued: “We are not merely observers: We are active participants in this movement, unified by our unwavering love for our language and culture. Our message to all is clear: This bandh is a symbol of our shared resolve, and we invite every Kannadiga to join us in this endeavour. Together, we shall make our voices heard, demanding our rights and defending our state’s interests.”
Nagaraj also said: “This is not just a bandh; it’s a testament to the indomitable spirit of Karnataka, a call for unity that resonates from Belagavi to Bidar, from Mangaluru to Kolar. Let this be a day when Karnataka stands as one, echoing our commitment to our heritage and the future we envision for our state.”
He also hit out at Shivakumar for appealing to the Kannada organisations to call off the Karnataka bandh on Friday and saying that the Bengaluru bandh had been successful.
“Is the government giving orders regarding bandhs through such statements? If you try to stop the bandh, we will demand your resignation across the state,” said Nagaraj, urging the deputy chief minister to withdraw his statement.
He also asked Siddaramaiah not to release water to Tamil Nadu, and instead take a firm stand in the interest of Karnataka.
“Even if you lose power, don’t release water, for the sake of the people of Karnataka. If you release water, there will be statewide protests for 15 days. We will shut national highways and hold jail bharo agitations. Lakhs of people are ready to go to jail,” cautioned Nagaraj.
Schools and colleges
Only a few districts, including Bengaluru City, have declared a holiday for schools and colleges on Friday in light of the Karnataka bandh. Schools will remain open in most of the districts.
Even Davanagere University, Karnataka State Law University, and Karnataka State Open University have not only declared a holiday for its affiliated colleges but also postponed the semester examinations scheduled on Friday.
Bengaluru City Police Deputy Commissioner KA Dayanand said in a statement: “As various organisations have declared a Karnataka bandh on Friday, there are chances of differences in bus services for students, teachers, and professors to commute. Hence, schools and colleges will remain closed on 29 September.”
Meanwhile, private schools and colleges have declared a holiday in Mandya. However, state-run schools and colleges will remain open in the district.
In several districts including in Ballari and Chikkamagaluru, the deputy commissioners (DCs) have decided to take a call on declaring a holiday for institutions after assessing the conditions on Friday.
“We are assessing the situation. The superintendent of police is also reviewing the status of the scale of protest in all talukas and has made suitable arrangements. We will decide after taking stock of the situation on the ground,” Chikkamagaluru DC CN Meena Nagraj told South First.
Chitradurga DC GRJ Divya Prabhu told South First: “The schools and colleges will remain open on Friday. We are keeping an eye on the developments on the bandh. No organisation or association has approached us seeking permission for the bandh. We have enhanced security arrangements across the district. The institutions will run as usual.”
Schools and colleges are expected to remain open in Dakshina Kannada, Koppal, Gadag, Belagavi, Vijayapura, Bagalkote, Mysuru, Chamrajanagara, Davanagere, Haveri, Uttara Kannada, Shivamogga, and other districts.
Government warns against bandh
Meanwhile, Shivakumar and Home Minister Dr G Parameshwara asserted that the bandh was against the law and that action would be taken if anyone in the state observed it on Friday.
Shivakumar told reporters in Bengaluru: “We will not prevent anyone from protesting, but the bandh is not permitted. We will provide protection to the public on Friday.”
He added: “The Supreme Court and the high court have given instructions regarding the bandh; they should be followed. I appeal to everyone not to observe the bandh. They can instead stage a protest.”
Parameshwara pointed out: “The court has also ruled that there should be no such ‘bandh’. Engaging in any form of ‘bandh’ is not legally permissible, and there is no need to give instructions to the police on how to handle this since it should not take place.”
He also said: “Bengaluru has already incurred significant economic losses, estimated to be ₹1,500-2,000 crore, due to Tuesday’s bandh. If another bandh occurs, it will exacerbate economic issues, especially considering the ongoing rainfall deficits. We must all understand this. Protests and demonstrations are everyone’s right, but we should be aware that organising a bandh goes against the law and should be avoided.”
He continued: “The government is committed to safeguarding the interests of the state regarding the Cauvery water issue. The right to protest is everyone’s, but it must be done peacefully and within the limits of the law. We have not made any deal with Tamil Nadu.”
Parameshwara also said: “Political parties, such as the BJP and the JD(S), have recently entered into an alliance. Criticising the government does not serve any purpose. The Opposition parties should cooperate with the state government for the benefit of Karnataka, rather than resorting to political blame games.”
(Inputs from PTI)