One killed in riots in Indian IT hub over river water dispute

An Indian police officer detains a youth as they walk past burning trucks that belong to the neighboring Tamil Nadu state set ablaze by angry mobs in Bangalore, Karnataka state, India, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (AP)

At least one person was killed and another wounded when police opened fired to quell rioting that erupted in the Indian technology hub of Bengaluru on Monday over a long-running river water dispute with the neighboring state, an official said.

Fifteen policemen were wounded after protesters set cars and buses on fire and pelted people with stones, L. Chandrashekar, a senior police officer, told Reuters.

Riot police took to the streets, and public gatherings were banned in a bid to rein in the unrest, while police said the local metro network had been temporarily suspended.

A Reuters witness saw a group of 20 to 30 protesters, some armed with sticks and stones, stopping and searching cars. A second witness saw smoldering tires strewn across city streets, filling the air with the smell of burnt rubber. Local television showed flames pouring from burnt-out vehicles as angry crowds gathered nearby.

The violence erupted after India’s Supreme Court ordered Karnataka state, where Bengaluru is located, to release 12,000 cubic feet of water per second per day from the Cauvery river to the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu until September 20.

The river has been the source of more than a century of tension between the states, and there have been outbreaks of violence before. In 1991 an interim court order telling Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu sparked riots against Tamils in Bengaluru that left more than 18 people dead.

"Rapid Action Force Teams have been deployed all over the city," Bengaluru city police said on Twitter on Monday. "We urge to all Bengalurians...Stay calm and not to panic."

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

Rioters set ablaze 35 buses at a depot, paralysing inter-state movement between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, local media reports said.

Young men crammed into mini-buses and rickshaws were seen shouting slogans and waving the red and yellow flag of Karnataka state. They pulled several Tamil Nadu-registered trucks and motorcycles to the side of the road and pelted them with stones, a Reuters witness said.

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

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

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

Many schools in Bangalore were closed on Monday. Offices were closed and shop owners downed shutters as groups of young men wandered the streets attacking properties owned by people from Tamil Nadu.

In the city of Mandya, 100 kilometers southeast of Bangalore, protesters set fire to trucks and buses bearing Tamil Nadu license plates. In the nearby city of Mysore, several vehicles were set ablaze and mobs of young men roamed the streets wielding iron rods, smashing windows of shops owned by people from Tamil Nadu.

Karnataka authorities have stopped bus services to Tamil Nadu for an unspecified period of time to prevent passengers from being attacked.

Supreme Court ruling

On Monday India’s top court ordered the southern state of Karnataka to release water from a disputed river to neighboring Tamil Nadu after violence erupted in both states over water sharing.

The Supreme Court ordered Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs (cubic feet per second) per day to Tamil Nadu until September 20. Farmers in both states, who depend on river water to irrigate their crops, have complained of severe water shortages.

The Cauvery River, which originates in Karnataka and flows into Tamil Nadu, has been the source of a bitter water dispute for decades. Karnataka officials told the court that the state did not have enough water reserves to share.

Vandalism

Earlier Monday, protesters in Tamil Nadu vandalized a hotel in the city of Chennai owned by people from Karnataka, triggering violent protests in both states.

Last week, the Supreme Court had ordered Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water for 10 days to Tamil Nadu, a move that led to protests by Karnataka farmers, who say they have no water for their fields.

The Karnataka government then appealed the ruling to the top court, which reduced the daily supply to Tamil Nadu.

 

Farmers in India are largely dependent on monsoon rains and rivers to irrigate their crops. But with successive poor monsoons, rivers and reservoirs have been running dry and farmers in many places have been forced to reduce the number of crops they grow.
 

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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