Arson and vandalism was seen on the streets of Bengaluru and on a highway to Mysuru on Monday as anger boiled over on a Supreme Court order that meant that Karnataka would have to release more water from the river Cauvery to neighbor Tamil Nadu. Some 15,000 policemen have been posted across the IT city.
The violence flared up shortly after the Supreme Court, modifying its September 5 order, on Monday asked Karnataka to release 12,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu till September 20.Rampaging mobs torched at least 30 buses and trucks with Tamil Nadu registration number plate in Bengaluru, bringing the country's IT capital on the edge.
Buses and trucks with Tamil Nadu registration number plate and several shops and establishments with roots there bore the brunt of vandalism by protesters with a travel company depot being the worst affected with several parked buses buses set afire.
Incidents of arson came even as police said they have made elaborate security arrangements with 15,000 policemen being deployed, bolstered by Karnataka State Reserve Police, City Armed Reserve Police, Rapid Action Force, Quick Reaction Teams, special forces, Central Industrial Security Force and Indo-Tibetan Border Police Force.
Karnataka home minister G Parameshwara said the government did not expect the protest to go to this extent. "We expected that if the decision goes against us, there will be some protest, but definitely not to this extent.
This is all hit and run kind of thing where 20-30 people join together to protest where police are not there, then they suddenly run away". The situation was being brought under control, he said adding that 200 people been detained.
He said forces have been deployed at sensitive points, particularly where Tamil population and establishments are located. "We have taken utmost precaution. We have received 10 companies of central forces. We have requested for more."
Trucks with Tamil Nadu registration number plate were either stoned or set on fire also in Mandya, Mysuru,Chitradurga and Dharwad districts as Kannada activists gave vent to their anger over alleged attacks on state vehicles and property of Kannadigas in the neighbouring state and also against the apex court modified order.
Siddaramaiah calls emergency cabinet meeting
Chief minister Siddaramaiah has called an emergency cabinet meeting on Tuesday to discuss the situation arising out of the Cauvery row.
As reports of arson and vandalism spread, office-goers rushed back home, with many companies calling off work as a precautionary step and schools and colleges declaring holiday, with sudden rush causing traffic gridlocks in several parts.
Metro, on which lakhs of commuters depend, also temporarily suspended its services.
Activists of disparate pro-Kannada outfits took control of streets in several areas and resorted to stone throwing and burning, targetting buses and trucks. Two Chennai-based hotels and mobile shops were attacked and vandalised in Bengaluru.
Siddaramaiah said his government was firmly committed to maintaining law and order in the state and had taken "utmost" precaution to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, particularly Tamil speaking people, in the state.
Speaking to reporters earlier, Siddaramaiah said he would also speak to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, if necessary, on the incidents targeting Kannadigas.
Section 144 imposed as precautionary measure Asking people not to pay heed to rumours and to cooperate in maintaining law and order, Karnataka state DGP Omprakash said as a precautionary measure section 144 is in place in Bengaluru city, Mandya, Mysuru, Srirangapatna and near four dams in the Cauvery basin.
Prohibitory orders will remain until normalcy is restored, he said adding, the situation is "tense, but under control."
In Mandya district, the main epicentre of the Cauvery agitation, two trucks were set ablaze and the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway was blocked after the Supreme court order came out. Police made a lathicharge to disperse a violent mob, which tried to loot some shops. Several vehicles with Tamil Nadu registration number plate were damaged on Bengaluru-Mysuru highway, police said.
In parts of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, protests by fringe Tamil outfits erupted on Monday with some commercial and government establishments of Karnataka coming under attack.
Outfits such as Naam Tamizhar Katchi and Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi hit the streets protesting the ongoing agitations in Karnataka opposing release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, police said.
A popular restaurant in Chennai and tourist vehicles bearing Karnataka registration plate in Rameswaram were vandalised while protesters created a ruckus at a Karnataka Bank branch in neighbouring Union Territory of Puducherry, police said. Four persons have been detained in connection with the restaurant attack while around 25 taken into custody in Puducherry, they said.
Voicing concern over violence against Kannada speaking people and their properties in Tamil Nadu over the past two days, Siddaramaiah wrote to his counterpart Jayalalithaa to ensure adequate safety and protection for Kannada speaking people in Tamil Nadu. "You would agree that the incidents of violence against Kannada speaking people that are being reported from Tamil Nadu would incite passions threatening peace in our state, which all of us should prevent," Siddaramiah said.