Protests over river water dispute turn violent

The river - and the provision of water from it - has been the source of more than a century of tension between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
The river - and the provision of water from it - has been the source of more than a century of tension between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE

Riot police deployed in Bangalore as vehicles are set on fire and people pelted with stones

BANGALORE • India's technology hub of Bangalore deployed riot police and banned public gatherings yesterday to rein in protests as a water dispute turned violent, with cars and buses set on fire and people pelted with stones.

Television footage showed flames pouring from burnt-out vehicles as angry crowds gathered nearby, while police said the local metro network had been temporarily suspended.

The violence erupted after India's Supreme Court ordered Karnataka state, where Bangalore is based, to release 12,000 cubic feet of water per second every day from the Cauvery river to neighbouring Tamil Nadu until Sept 20.

The river has been the source of more than a century of tension between the states and the anger had previously turned violent.

In 1991, an interim court order telling Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu sparked riots against Tamils in Bangalore, leaving more than 18 people dead.

"Rapid Action Force Teams have been deployed all over the city," Bangalore city police said on Twitter yesterday.

"We urge all Bangalorians... to stay calm and not panic."

The police said later they had also imposed an emergency law known as Section 144, which prohibits gatherings in public areas.

A Reuters witness saw a group of 20 to 30 protesters, some armed with sticks and stones, stopping and searching cars.

They pulled several Tamil Nadu- registered trucks and motorcycles to the side of the road and pelted them with stones.

At least one truck driver was beaten with a stick. The protesters let Karnataka-registered vehicles through the makeshift roadblock.

Police said that more than 15,000 officers had been deployed to keep the peace, including riot police and border security forces.

Bangalore is home to top Indian IT companies such as Infosys, Wipro and Mphasis, as well as the offices of several multinational firms like Samsung Electronics.

The media reported a small number of attacks on Tamil-owned property in Karnataka.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah said on Twitter that he had asked his Tamil Nadu counterpart J. Jayalalithaa to investigate reports of violence in Tamil Nadu against people originally from his state.

Disputes over water resources are common in India, where rising demand and poor management of supplies often leads to angry protests.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 13, 2016, with the headline 'Protests over river water dispute turn violent'. Print Edition | Subscribe