Protests over the sharing of water of the Cauvery river flared again in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with the death of one person in police firing in Bengaluru where sporadic outbreak of violence and fast-spreading rumours led to the impression of a unstable city. Angry Kannadiga protesters torched at least 30 buses at the Kengeri yard in Bengaluru, reported the Times of India.
Reports from Tamil Nadu too suggested that Kannadiga establishments and cars with Karnataka licence plates were being targeted.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had modified its most recent order calling on Karnataka to release water to Tamil Nadu. The Karnataka government had approached the court hoping to see a big reduction in the amount it was required to release, and used the law and order problems as an explanation for why it was approaching the apex court. The court was not persuaded however, criticising Karnataka's stand and only lowering the water-release order from 15,000 cusecs per day to 12,000 cusecs per day.
The order however seemed to spark additional violence, particularly in Karnataka where batons had to be used to control protesters who were attacking buses registered with Tamil Nadu number and scenes of vehicle burnings were being played over and over on social media. Bengaluru Police imposed Section 144 by evening, prohibiting more than 10 people from assembling in one place – a de facto acknowledgment of a break down in law and order.
Over the course of this violent day, however, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah also took the time out to pen a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, telling her that violence in Tamil Nadu was responsible for inciting passions in his state.
Dear Ms Jayalalithaa ji,
I would like to bring to your kind notice certain unfortunate incidents of violence against Kannada-speaking people and their properties in Tamil Nadu over the past two days. It has also come to my notice that an incident involving a youth by name Santosh in Bengaluru, has been blown out of proportion by media channels in Tamil Nadu and this is likely inciting passions and violence against Kannada speaking people. The Bengaluru City Police has already filed a case in the Santosh incident and investigation is under progress.
Our Government is firmly committed to maintaining law and order in the State. We have taken utmost precaution to ensure the safety and security of all citizens, particularly Tamil speaking people, in the State. 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.
While we are taking necessary precautions to ensure maintenance of law and order in our State, I would urge you to direct authorities in Tamil Nadu to ensure that perpetrators of violence are immediately brought to book.
Further, you may also like to advice your authorities to ensure adequate safety and protection for Kannada speaking people in the State of Tamil Nadu.
Later in the day Tamil Nadu's chief minister also wrote back, calling news from Karnataka "alarming" and said it is causing "considerable anxiety."
“I write to bring to your urgent attention the need to ensure the safety and security of many lakhs of Tamil speaking people residing in Karnataka and of their properties in the light of the escalating incidents of violence taking place in many parts of Karnataka.
I have also received your letter dated 12.9.2016, regarding certain incidents in Tamil Nadu. As soon as the directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court were received on 6.9.2016, and reports regarding violent protests in different parts of Karnataka were telecast by the media, directions were given to the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu, to instruct all field formations to ensure that law and order is maintained and adequate protection provided to all Kannada speaking people and their properties in Tamil Nadu. The protests by some sections in Tamil Nadu, including by farmers, have been peaceful and lawful. Despite very provocative incidents that are taking place in Karnataka, absolute restraint has been observed in Tamil Nadu by all sections. We have ensured that no major incidents of any kind targeting Kannada speaking people or their properties have occurred.
The two minor incidents in Chennai and Ramanathapuram that have been referred to in the letter received from the Additional Chief Secretary, Home, Karnataka, addressed to the Principal Secretaries, Home and Public, Tamil Nadu, have already been acted on very promptly and cases registered and the miscreants arrested. In any event, all precautionary measures have been taken and law and order continues to be well maintained in Tamil Nadu.
I am concerned that the situation in Karnataka is serious with several instances of mob violence targeting Tamil speaking persons and their property. As per the reports received, the violence has escalated and a large number of vehicles, including more than 40 buses, 45 lorries and many other vehicles bearing Tamil Nadu number plates have been burnt and damaged. Groups of protesters from Karnataka are regularly assembling at the Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border near Hosur and threatening vehicles and commuters from Tamil Nadu. Hotels and properties belonging to Tamils in Karnataka are being attacked and damaged. This is an alarming situation and is causing considerable anxiety.
I request you to take immediate and effective action to provide all necessary protection and security to ensure that no harm is caused to the person and property of Tamil speaking people in Karnataka.”