Bengalureans woke up on Friday to a city that had gone still. Except for an occasional sloganeering mob that passed by, the city was eerily quiet. Residents stayed at home while protestors went to work – forcing one-off businesses to down their shutters, catching motorists and sending them home. The bandh called to protest against Cauvery water sharing with Tamil Nadu was, in all sense, total and crippling.
While there were no incidents of arson, motorists were harassed in certain places, and employees that were found working had a hard time negotiating with the protestors.
Protests were held at different places in the city and took many forms. By afternoon, protestors led by former MLA Vatal Nagaraj gathered at Town Hall and took out a rally to Freedom Park where a meeting was held with thousands in audience. The crux of it was made loud and clear — stop supplying Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu, immediately.
Tweet controversy: Biocon chief Kiran-Mazumdar Shaw had to retract her Tweet over Karnataka bandh after it kicked up a row. The Tweet saga began when a Twitter user asked her to take leave and observe Karnataka bandh. Kiran shot back saying it was not a holiday for her as she was in Delhi. Then, she went on to tweet saying, “Another bandh-it’s now Bandhaluru where bandhs are affecting productivity. What a sad situation where farmers on both sides can’t share.” This tweet went for instant criticism both online and offline.
Kannada leader Vatal Nagaraj demanded that Mazumdar Shaw take back her statement and warned of a protest against her company on September 16. Sensing trouble, she immediately deleted the Tweet and later said: “Karnataka’s needs must be addressed first from Cauvery and hope both state governments can resolve this long dispute amicably. We are observing bandh in solidarity with people and farmers of Karnataka who are facing water challenges. Hope two states resolve dispute amicably.”
On deleting her Tweet, she said: “It is misinterpreted. I have only commented on non-violent dispute resolution and people are twisting it.”
KIA becomes rest house, flights delayed: At least 11 flights were delayed between 5:50 am and 7:30 am. The airlines couldn’t operate on time as passengers hadn’t reached. Only a few airport taxis were available in the morning. It was not until 3:30 pm that services were resumed. Volvo buses to the airport started operating only after 5:50 pm. With prior information that there won’t be any cabs or BMTC buses available to reach Kempegowda International Airport (KIA), travelers started assembling near the airport from the previous night itself.
A few of these passengers had to catch an evening flight on Friday, but had to camp out at the terminal for almost the whole day. Some of the passengers who had arrived in the morning had to wait till evening to come out. As a result, the airport was overcrowded.
Passengers stranded: As it was a total bandh in Karnataka, all modes of transport were shut, leaving people stranded at various spots. Passengers from morning trains at KSR Bengaluru city railway station and Cantonment railway station, as well as those at bus-stands were stranded.
In the wee hours of Friday, between 2.30 am and 3.30 am, three Vayu Vajra air-conditioned buses plying to the airport were damaged after an unruly mob pelted stones at them on the Outer Ring Road. Sensing trouble, BMTC decided not to operate any more buses to the airport. Chief manager (operations) of BMTC BC Renukeshwar said: “Windscreen and side glasses of the buses were damaged after some people pelted stones at them. The incidents happened near Nagavara and Hebbal areas. There were passengers in the bus and luckily no one was hurt.” Due to repeated bandhs this year, BMTC has incurred heavy losses in addition to damages to its fleet. It pegged its revenue loss at more than Rs 25 crore.
Cabs stayed offline: A cab driver ferrying a passenger near the railway station was attacked by protestors and punched in the face. Due to participation of various unions, transport facilities came to a standstill in the city. In some parts of the city, auto drivers and taxi drivers who were seen plying on the roads were stopped by protestors and assaulted. In Mahalakshmi Layout, protestors overturned an auto.
No Metro service: Even Namma Metro went off the track. Though employees taking the first shift turned up at work, it was decided not to run the trains. The staff locked themselves inside, leaving a notice outside stating that the Metro service had been suspended for a day in view of the bandh, and that the BMRCL would consider resuming the service if the situation improved. BMRCL suspended services between Nagasandra and Mantri Square Sampige Road and Baiyappanahalli to Mysore Road station. However, as the bandh was total, the services never took off till evening.
Mock last rites: It was Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa who bore the brunt of the collective anger. There were mock funerals by protestors carrying her pictures. Some others raised slogans against her for raking up the Cauvery issue time and again. At Town Hall, the nucleus of the bandh on Friday, activists organised a mock last rites for Jayalalithaa.
No petrol or medicines: Pharmacies and petrol bunks are part of the essential services that generally stay open even during bandhs. But this time, even these were shut down. Some petrol bunk owners claimed they were totally supporting the Karnataka bandh, others said they could still hadn’t forgotten the arson in the aftermath of Kannada Matinee idol Rajkumar’s death and were not ready to take any chances. Pharmacy associations announced their support for the bandh and voluntarily shut shops. Although the independent shops were closed, a few inside hospitals stayed open.
Tamil channels off air: For the last few days, Tamil movies had been taken off the big screen in Bengaluru. On Friday, it was the turn of the small screen. Cable operators switched off 52 Tamil channels. During the previous Cauvery bandhs, cable operators had switched off all entertainment channels of other languages, except the news channels. However, this time only the Tamil channels were taken off air.
Schools closed: The schools and colleges in Bengaluru were closed for the second consecutive Friday due to Bandh (last Friday, the schools were closed due to nationwide stir against the Union government). Schools sent messages to parents announcing the decision to stay closed on Friday, but that parents should be prepared to send their kids for full days on next four Saturdays starting this week. Dasara holidays will be shorter this year to compensate. For schools, it will be from October 9 to 27. The department of public instruction is also planning to cut down Christmas holidays in view of the serial holidays.
Different forms of protest: Protestors found different ways to express their anger and disapproval against the Cauvery verdict. While some tonsured themselves, a few even cut their wrists to make a point. There was the ‘Urulu Seve’ (rolling on the road) and the donkey protest. There were pujas conducted in various parts for more rain. Protestors in Ramanagar went up to the extent of conducting a mock wedding between Karnataka CM and Tamil Nadu CM. Transgenders too chimed in with their support and were found holding empty pots.
Passenger died : A passenger waiting for a bus at the Mysuru city bus stand collapsed and died on the spot. His body was rushed to a hospital for post mortem. KSRTC officials said they were yet to ascertain the identity of the deceased who had come in the morning to the stand. Meanwhile, a 30-year-old man attempted suicide at Freedom Park by stabbing himself during the protest over the Cauvery water issue. The injured was identified as Prabhu, a resident of Cholarapalya and a member of a Kannada organisation. He and other protestors were calling out slogans saying ‘we are ready to give blood, but not water, when Prabhu stabbed himself. He is out of danger.
Shivarajkumar lost his cool: Kannada star Shivarajkumar lost his cool for a while when the crowd gathered at the film chamber near Shivananda circle refused to let the actors speak. He lost his cool for a while and tried to tell the people that if they did not calm down, it would become difficult for the actors to speak. Finally, his was able to pacify the audience enough to resume the event. Later during his talk, he said Siddaramaiah should take a tough stand on Cauvery like the former chief minister S Bangarapppa.
No restaurants, no online deliveries: On Friday, if you didn’t have food at home, you could have been in trouble. Finding food both online and offline was the toughest. All hotels and restaurants stayed closed and no online delivery was possible either. Many people took to social media to find out where they could find any food. And as grocery shops stayed closed too, there really was nowhere to go to get a grub outside of your house.
No immersions: The bandh had its effect even on the Ganesha idol immersion. The police had banned the immersion of Ganesh idols till Friday evening. So, all those who had planned for the morning/ afternoon immersion processions had to wait till late evening before they could take out the idols and immerse at a nearby lake.
Against protesting: Koppal deputy commissioner R Ramachandran issued a diktat to all the school and college principals in his district, asking them to take responsibility and ensure that no student took part in the protest.
Fifth bandh of the year: Friday’s bandh was the fifth one of the year. The first was on April 18 when pro-Kannada organisations called for Karnataka bandh demanding Mekedaatu project at the earliest. The KSRTC and BMTC went on a protest by withdrawing bus services for three days, thereby, bringing commute to a near standstill from July 25. On July 30, the city once again saw a shutdown against Mahadayi verdict and this was followed by the September 2 protest by various transport bodies against the Union government policies.
Mandya on the boil: Mandya, which had been the heart of protests against the Cauvery verdict for the last few days, continued to be on the boil even on Friday. Sanjay Circle in Mandya continued to attract thousands of protestors. Some of them reached the venue in bullock carts. Heavy security was provided to the Krishnaraja Sagar reservoir, near Srirangapatna. Hundreds of protestors tried to barge into the reservoir to stop the water reservoir. Some of them tried to break open the barricades. The police had a tough time stopping them. As lathi charge too failed to disperse the mob, the police were forced to use tear gas shells, which brought situation under control. During that time, some of the protestors jumped into the nearby canal and were injured.
CM asks Modi to intervene: Chief minister Siddaramaiah wrote to prime minister Narendra Modi to immediately intervene and hold a meeting with ministers of all southern states. In the letter, he said: “The unrest, if it continued, will not only have a serious impact on the economy, particularly IT which brings enormous revenue and foreign exchange to the country, but will also impact the livelihood of the common man.” He also cited the 1995 example, when the then PM had taken the initiative and conducted a meeting of all four states to resolve the issue.
Employees forced to go home: Protestors gheraoed Ecospace tech park after getting reports that a few employees were working from different offices. A few protestors went in and vacated the offices and pulled up authorities for not supporting the vital issue of water crisis. At Electronics City, a few offices were vacated. At Zenforce, protestors alleged that around 300 employees were working, and created a ruckus.
Southern districts were worst hit: The Cauvery bandh was a total one in south, especially in Bengaluru, Mandya, Mysuru and other southern districts of the state. But it had only limited effect in the northern and coastal areas. While these still saw protests by pro-Kannada groups, the bandh did not crippled normal life as it did in southern districts. Buses and private vehicles stayed on the road, and it was business-as-usual in cities like Mangaluru and other areas in northern Karnataka.
Local leader made some money: When protestors got to know that a certain petrol bunk on Sarjapur Main Road was functioning, they geared up to teach the owner a lesson. However, after reaching the petrol bunk they realised that the facility belonged to a local Congress leader Jagdish Reddy. Soon after the revelation, the leader was shaking hands with the protestors. Reddy said: “I have groomed these people and made them ideal protestors. They won’t attack me. I have opened the petrol bunk so that people in emergency can use the facility and buy fuel.” The protestors had no other option but to turn around and leave.
Bank staffers had a hard time: Protestors learnt that State Bank of Mysore employees of Basavanagudi branch were working inside closed gates. Around 100 of them lay seize to the bank around 12 pm. Initially, the attender refused to accept that employees were inside. But when they started getting violent, the branch manager came outside and requested them not to vandalise or hurt any staffer. All bank employees started slowly coming outside and convinced the protestors to leave them alone. The manager, who did not wish to be named, said their seniors did not allow them to close the bank. The employees eventually left.
Women not spared: On Mysuru Road, Kanakapura Main Road, Chamarajpet, Jayanagar, JP Nagar, Banashankari and other places protestors were found forcing commuters on the road to go back home. In a few places, they were abusive to women. There were instances of women being stopped and harassed for more than 5-10 minutes. Private cars were stopped, some were even attacked. Ambulances were allowed to ply in most places.
Vandalised for staying open: One of the outlets of More supermarket in south Bengaluru was open despite being aware of the bandh. When protestors learnt about it, they lay seize to the outlet and pelted stones. The staffers were forced to down the shutters. Lodges around Majestic and Cottonpet main road that were open were vandalised.
Police had a long day: Police personal from all police stations including law and order and traffic were on duty. As many as 36 battalions of KSRP, 30 CAR platoons along with 1,000 home guards were deployed to maintain law and order. The RAF was stationed in the central business district during the day. Later, they were moved to the more-sensitive Mysuru Road.
Credits Bangalore Mirror