The Karnataka High Court on Friday stayed the shutdown called by some pro-Kannada groups on February 4, calling it “unconstitutional”, The Hindu reported. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Bengaluru on Sunday for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Parivartan Rally.

Kannada organisations and farmers had called for two bandhs in Karnataka, on January 25 and February 4, to protest against the non-implementation of the Kalasa-Banduri dam project. The project will divert water from the Mahadayi river (pictured above) to districts in North Karnataka, which depend on the river for drinking water.

On January 25, many educational institutes were shut, state-run buses from Bengaluru remained off the road, and the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation had suspended its services.

A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice HG Ramesh and Justice PS Dinesh Kumar also directed the state government on Friday to ensure that the daily lives of people, and other industrial and commerce activities, are not affected due to the shutdown. The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by the Shraddha Parents’ Association in Bengaluru.

It recalled a Supreme Court direction and said that no organisation or individual has the right to call for such shutdowns, and then adjourned the matter for two weeks.

In December 2017, five districts of north Karnataka came to a standstill as farmers observed a strike to make similar demands. Their strike came soon after Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said on December 21 that his state was ready to share a “reasonable and justified” amount of water from the Mahadayi river with Karnataka for its drinking water needs.

Karnataka and Goa have been fighting over the waters of the river for decades. The Mahadayi originates in Karnataka but passes through Goa to meet the Arabian Sea.

The dispute

Karnataka wants to divert a meagre 7.56 tmcft water from its contribution to the Mahadayi basin to Malaprabha dam to take care of the acute water shortage of Hubballi and Dharwad and about 180 villages near the dam. After necessary approval from the water resources ministry in 2002, Karnataka announced its plans to build two barrages on Mahadayi’s tributaries, Kalasa and Banduri.

Goa, however, objected to the plan and approached the Supreme Court the same year. Goa believes the proposed water diversion would not only affect the water needs of the people, but also the sensitive ecology of the Western Ghats.