Farmers and some pro-Kannada groups in Karnataka on Thursday began their 12-hour strike from 6 am over the Mahadayi river water sharing dispute. The outfits, which are protesting against the non-implementation of the Kalasa-Banduri dam project, want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the dispute between Karnataka and Goa, the Hindustan Times reported.
The bandh was effective mainly in Bengaluru and Mysuru, but ineffective in the north Karnataka districts of Hubbali, Dharwad, Belgavi, Bidar and Bijapur, Firstpost reported.
Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah’s Parivartan Rally scheduled for 2.30 pm in Mysuru was postponed to 4 pm as a result of the protests. BJP leaders accused the Siddaramaiah government of misusing official machinery to hold a strike on a day when the party’s leaders were to campaign in the state.
Shah arrived at the Maharaja College Grounds in Mysuru around 3 pm. Earlier, BJP leaders had repeatedly asked the audience not to leave until the programme was over. Shah accused the Congress government of behaving like it did during the Emergency “by deploying police to hold off supporters, clamping down on transport services and by organising this bandh.”
All education institutes in Bengaluru and Ramnagara district were closed on Thursday. Schools and colleges in the districts of Haveri, Yadgir, Kalaburagi and Chikkaballapura were open. The Bangalore University postponed Thursday’s undergraduate and post-graduate exams to February 6, while the Visvesvaraya Technological University rescheduled the post graduate exam for MBA to February 5.
State-run buses from Bengaluru remained off the road, leaving passengers from outside the city stranded at the bus terminal, PTI reported. The Goa government-run Kadamba Transport Corporation Limited suspended its bus services to Karnataka.
The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation suspended its services after activists stopped buses at the main Majestic bus station, and offloaded passengers around 8 am. The corporation resumed 852 of the 4,649 buses after 2pm, News 18 reported.
Bengaluru Metro officials said the services would run. “If, and only if, there is a hindrance to the safety of the passengers, we will inform the police and stop services,” a Namma Metro spokesperson told NDTV.
Software services company Wipro declared holiday for its employees across the state and said that it had invoked “business continuity plans” so that its services are not hampered.
Actor Prakash Raj said people of Karnataka have a right over the water that flows past Kalasa Banduri. He urged parties not to politicise the matter. “In a democracy, when a political party comes to power, it is not just a political party, but a party that is duty-bound to the people it represents,” he said in a video message. “Any party that says that “since we are at the Centre or in a neighbouring state...we will bring you water” is lying.”
Officials at the Indian Medical Association said they will continue to function normally but will be extending moral support to the bandh by wearing a black band, The Indian Express reported. Film industries and multiplexes will also stay shut.
The police detained a group of protestors who tried to disrupt rail services at Bengaluru’s Sangolli Rayanna railway station.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, meanwhile, alleged that the Congress government had worked to ensure that the strike would be held on Thursday as BJP National President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi are expected to visit the state and address the “Nav Karnataka Parivartan Yatra”. “There is no necessity for a Karnataka bandh,” Karnataka BJP President BS Yeddyurappa said. “If there was a bandh in the affected area, it is fine. What has Mysuru got to do with the issue?”
Yeddyurappa said that the party would retaliate by observing district-specific shutdowns when Congress President Rahul Gandhi tours the state, NDTV reported.