Farmer bodies held a bandh in Bengaluru on Tuesday to protest against the Karnataka government’s decision to release water from the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu. Several demonstrators were detained during the protest, reported PTI.

Karnataka Jala Samrakshana Samiti, an umbrella outfit of farmers’ associations, and other organisations led by farmer leader Kuruburu Shanthakumar had given the call for the bandh between 6 am to 6 pm.

The bandh was backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal (Secular).

The distribution of Cauvery water has been a long-standing dispute between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. It dates back to two agreements in 1892 and 1924 between the erstwhile Madras Presidency and the princely state of Mysore.

Shanthakumar and several other leaders of the umbrella body were detained by the police at the Mysuru Bank Circle area of Bengaluru while they were walking in a protest march towards the town hall, reported PTI.

Other protestors were taken into custody from near the town hall.

Bengaluru Police Commissioner B Dayananda said that a ban on gatherings of four or more persons under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure has been imposed in place across the city from Monday midnight to Tuesday midnight. About 100 platoons of personnel have been deployed, reported NDTV.

Farmers’ leaders have alleged that the police used force to curtail the protests, reported PTI.

A public holiday was declared in schools and colleges in the city on Tuesday. Many private firms asked their employees to work from home. Some malls in the city have also decided to remain closed.

Ahead of the protests, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar on Monday said the government will not stop the agitation, but cautioned that peace should be maintained.

The protests began after the Supreme Court, on September 21, upheld an order of the Cauvery Water Management Authority, directing the Karnataka government to release 5,000 cusecs of water per day to Tamil Nadu till September 27.

Tamil Nadu had demanded an increase in its current share of Cauvery river water from 5,000 cusecs per day to 7,200 cusecs per day. However, the Supreme Court had refused its petition.

The Karnataka government had told the Supreme Court that the management authority’s order for supplying 5,000 cusecs of water every day was “against the interest” of the state, but was still being complied with. The state had also contended that the situation has worsened in the past 15 days due to the failure of the southwest monsoon.

The dispute

The Union government set up the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal in 1990, which delivered its verdict in 2007. The tribunal allocated 419 thousand million cubic feet of water per year to Tamil Nadu and 270 thousand million cubic feet of water to Karnataka.

However, this did not settle the dispute as both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka filed petitions to review the decision.

The Supreme Court in February 2018 asked the Centre to set up the Cauvery Water Management Authority within a month to implement the tribunal’s verdict.