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2 India's trailblazer
losing its way By Sudha Ramachandran
BANGALORE - Barely two weeks after
Hindu-Muslim riots rocked Bangalore, another wave
of violence is threatening to engulf the city. A
tribunal verdict regarding sharing of the waters
of the River Cauvery that is perceived to have
gone against the southern Indian state of
Karnataka - of which Bangalore is the capital -
has sparked protests in Bangalore and surrounding
Software hub Bangalore has always
been looked on as India's city of the future. The
repeated eruption of violent protests indicates
lies ahead for India if it persists with its
current development pattern. A few islands of
prosperity in the midst of an ocean of poverty
will only increase internal strife.
Security analysts have been worrying about
Bangalore's vulnerability to terrorist attacks and
the threat this poses to investment. The bigger
threat is from mob violence. And this is rooted in
disparity and alienation.
Cauvery, which begins in Karnataka's Coorg
district, snakes through Mysore and Mandya
districts before entering the state of Tamil Nadu.
Vast swaths of agricultural land in both states
depend on its waters, and several cities,
including Bangalore and Mysore, are almost wholly
dependent on the river for their drinking-water
Bangalore is home to top Indian
and multinational information-technology
companies. Mysore, which is some 145 kilometers
from Bangalore, is an emerging software hub. It is
near the Cauvery and, like Bangalore, will
experience the brunt of the protests in the coming
weeks. Road and rail traffic between the two
cities has already been stopped.
dispute over the sharing of the Cauvery waters
goes back more than 100 years. On Monday, the
Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal ruled that of the
740 billion cubic feet (21 billion cubic meters)
of water that flows annually in the Cauvery, Tamil
Nadu will have rights to 419 billion cubic feet,
while Karnataka will get 270 billion. Both states
got less than they wanted - Karnataka has been
awarded less than half what it demanded. But while
Tamil Nadu will now get more water than that
granted to it by an interim award in 1991,
Karnataka will have to make do with less.
While the government's immediate response
has been cautious - it has called for an all-party
meeting to chart out its strategy and is expected
to appeal against the tribunal ruling - activists
belonging to organizations claiming to represent
the interests of Kannadigas, the local
Kannada-speaking population, were swift to protest
the verdict. Within hours, Kannada activists were
out on the streets of Bangalore.
dispute over water-sharing is with Tamil Nadu,
Kannada activists have traditionally vented their
ire on the issue by attacking Tamils living in
Bangalore. Bangalore borders Tamil Nadu and a
quarter of its population is said to be
When an interim award
regarding Cauvery water-sharing was announced in
1991, large-scale violence targeting Tamils broke
out in Bangalore. Since then, every turn in the
tortuous process of settling the Cauvery dispute
has been met with violent protests, especially in
years when the monsoon has brought less rain.
The issue has cast a long shadow over
relations between not only Karnataka and Tamil
Nadu but also Kannadigas and Tamils in Bangalore.
Tamils are attacked even on issues not concerning
water-sharing. In 2000, when Kannada film star
Rajkumar was kidnapped by bandit-smuggler
Veerappan, a Tamil, Bangalore erupted in
anti-Tamil violence again.
concern now that the protests planned in Bangalore
and other parts of Karnataka will turn anti-Tamil.
The Akhila Karnataka Gadi Horata Samiti, an
umbrella organization of several pro-Kannada
organizations, has called a statewide bundh
(shutdown) for next Monday. Protest rallies and
demonstrations have begun.
Bus and train
services have been disrupted. Tamil television
channels were taken off the air in many
neighborhoods. The exodus of Tamil construction
labor, which has borne the brunt of anti-Tamil
violence in the past, from Bangalore has begun.
In anticipation of a repeat of the ugly
riots of 1991 and 2000, security in Bangalore has
been beefed up. Army battalions have been deployed
and some 700 potential troublemakers have been
taken into preventive custody.
Bangaloreans are convinced that the police are on
top of the situation, as in the past the police
have looked on helplessly during riots. Only two
weeks ago, parts of central Bangalore were