In recent days, the town of Mandya in Karnataka, known as the heartland of the Cauvery River, has witnessed a wave of protests and has called for a ‘bandh’ today by pro-Kannada organizations. The cause of this unrest is the release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu from dams in Karnataka, following the directive of the Cauvery Water Management Authority (CWMA).
Mandya district, which surrounds the Krishnaraja Sagar Dam on the Cauvery river, experienced a significant ‘bandh’ or strike, called upon by pro-Kannada organizations. As a sign of protest, most shops in Mandya remained closed for the day. The call for the bandh emerged in response to the release of 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu, as mandated by the CWMA. This move led to demonstrators taking to the streets, raising slogans and advocating for solidarity among shopkeepers and other commercial establishments, such as petrol and diesel service stations. Many businesses heeded this call and shut down for the duration of the bandh.
Mandya became the epicenter of the protest, with members of the Mandya Rakshana Vedike organizing a bike rally and a march. These demonstrators raised their voices against what they perceived as injustice to Mandya and Karnataka. Their protest involved slogans, sit-in demonstrations, and road blockades. The heightened tension in Mandya prompted increased security measures, with a significant deployment of police personnel at strategic locations in the town. The Janata Dal also extended its support to the bandh, further amplifying the protest’s significance.
The root cause of this ongoing dispute lies in the directives from the CWMA and the subsequent Supreme Court ruling. The CWMA ordered Karnataka to release 5,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for an additional 15 days, following a recommendation by the Cauvery Water Regulation Committee (CWRC). The Supreme Court, in its ruling, refused to interfere with these orders, which led to widespread protests throughout Karnataka.
Karnataka has consistently argued that it faces challenges in releasing water due to its own requirements for drinking water and irrigation in the Cauvery basin areas. The deficit monsoon rains have exacerbated water scarcity concerns in the state. In response to this, progressive farmer K. Kemparaju of Maddur and ex-serviceman R.P. Ravi of Pandavapura filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the release of water to Tamil Nadu. This petition is scheduled for a hearing on an upcoming Friday.