Protest marches, burning of effigies, over denial of water to Karnataka

Several districts in north Karnataka have erupted in protest over the verdict of the Mahadayi Water Dispute Tribunal’s interim order against releasing water to Karnataka.

The Tribunal on Wednesday rejected Karnataka’s plea seeking that Goa release 7.5 tmc of water. The Tribunal, headed by JN Panchal heard arguments by counsels for the two states on Tuesday, and reserved its orders for Wednesday.

Karnataka had filed an interim application with the Tribunal seeking 7.5tmc water to be released from the Mahadayi in Goa for the Malaprabha Lift Irrigation project. Wednesday’s verdict is only the interim order not the final one.

People in several parts of Gadag, Belagavi, and Dharwad districts are protesting over the ruling of the Tribunal, which is perceived to be an injustice to the state. These districts have faced a serious shortage of water, which was particularly bad during the drought in the past year.

People in several places such as Betageri and Bailhongal in Belagavi district, Gajendragadh in Gadag district have called for a bandh. The bandh is likely to take place across all the districts in the state and some colleges and schools have already declared holiday in lieu of the bandh. 

Kalasa Banduri Horata Samiti president Vijay Kulkarni told The News Minute that already, people had declared a bandh in several places. “We will continue to struggle until the water comes.”

Asked if the protesters would seek the support of the BJP or JD(S), he said that the struggle for the implementation of the Kalasa-Banduri project was an apolitical one. “The support of the BJP, JD(S) is not required as this is a people’s struggle. All the parties come protest with us when they are seeking power. But once they come to power, they do nothing.”

He said that the people of the region have been demanding that the project be implemented for the past 16 years. But since last July, the protesters have sat on an indefinite dharna in Nargdund, in Gadag district. “It has now been one year and eight days, since we launched that protest.”

President of the Kannada Okoota Vatal Nagaraj has called for a bandh on July 30. Holding a press conference in Bengaluru, he said that Kannada organizations would begin protests from Thursday onwards over the rejection of Karnataka’s plea to release 7.5tmc water.

President of the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce too has extended its support to the protests. The film industry has called for a bandh on July 30. 

Protests

Farmers with green shawls in several districts raised slogans against the verdict, demanding drinking water. In several places, such as Belagavi city, they burned effigies on the roads.

Angry protesters barged into MP Shivakumar Udasi’s office in Haveri and vandalized it.

The PWD office, and JMFC court Navalgund in Dharwad district have been vandalized. Protesters broke doors, windows and furniture of the court building.

Minister for Water Resources MB Patil told journalists that the government was disappointed with the verdict.

The Hindu quoted Patil as saying: “The government had great expectations and was hoping that the tribunal would understand the criticality of drinking water problem of North Karnataka districts, but our hopes have completely dashed.”

Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj urged people not to take to heart the interim order of the Tribunal.

Dharwad MP and BJP leader Prahlad Joshi said that the verdict was not acceptable to the people of Karnataka.