A Bengaluru bandh called on Tuesday, September 26, by farmer groups over the Cauvery issue received a mixed response with many hotels and shops staying open and public transport plying as usual in the city. The reason for this was a second Karnataka bandh called by pro-Kannada activist Vatal Nagaraj on Friday, September 29 to protest against the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu.
Confusion reigned after a prominent association of hotel owners and another association of cab drivers and cab owners withdrew their support for the bandh on September 26 and announced that they will instead support the bandh called on September 29. TNM spoke to leaders of pro-Kannada groups and farmer groups and found that a split of opinion over who leads the call for bandh led to two separate bandhs in the space of four days.
"We tried to hold the bandh on the same day (Tuesday) but pro-Kannada groups wanted to do the call for the bandh and hold it on Friday," says Kurubur Shantakumar, the farmer leader who called for the Bengaluru bandh held on September 26.
Leaders in pro-Kannada groups told TNM that even though discussions were held to support the bandh called by farmer groups, a decision was taken to call a separate bandh on Friday, September 29. "It was a prestige issue. They wanted to call the bandh themselves and did not want to follow a bandh called by a farmer leader," a pro-Kannada activist told TNM.
The second bandh was called by Vatal Nagaraj under the banner of his political party, the Kannada Chalavali Vatal Paksha (KCVP), on September 29 with the support of several pro-Kannada groups over the Cauvery water issue. Most pro-Kannada organisations threw their weight behind the second bandh.
At 83 years of age, Vatal has been part of pro-Kannada movements in Karnataka for over sixty years now and many believed that the bandh should have been called by him.
However, within the most prominent pro-Kannada group - Karnataka Rakshana Vedike - opinion was split over the two bandhs in Bengaluru.
One faction of the Vedike led by TA Narayanagowda faction said that the organisation is not in support of the bandh on September 29. "A bandh should be the last resort of a movement and not the first option. We do not agree with sudden calls for bandhs that inconvenience the public," a statement by Narayanagowda read. The same organisation had held an agitation during the bandh called on September 26.
Another faction of the Vedike led by Praveen Shetty said that the organisation was going to take to the streets on September 29. "We gave our moral support for the bandh held by farmer groups but on Friday, we will be taking to the streets and blocking the highways. Shops and hotels will be shut down too," Praveen Shetty said.
While the bandh called on September 26 received a mixed response, hotels and shops are expected to be shut in the city on Friday and cab and auto drivers are expected to be off the road.