Protests in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu over water supply project

March 31st, 2008 - 9:09 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead, Changing Dateline)

Bangalore/ Hogenekkal (Tamil Nadu), March 31 (IANS) Screening of Tamil films was stopped in several Bangalore theatres Monday as activists of a Tamil Nadu political party staged protests in Hogenekkal, worsening a month-long dispute between the two states over a Rs.13 billion water supply project. Pro-Kannada activists in Bangalore attacked cinema halls screening Tamil films, protesting Tamil Nadu’s decision to go ahead with the water supply project at Hogenekkal waterfalls on the border of the two states.

Karnataka says the picturesque Hogenekkal, where the state’s major river Cauvery enters Tamil Nadu, belongs to it and that the neighbouring state’s water supply project will severely affect its interests.

However on Sunday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi asserted in Chennai that the Japanese funded project would be executed at any cost, and criticised political parties and pro-Kannada groups for opposing it.

In response to his assertion, activists of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) demonstrated in front of seven theatres, tore down posters and stopped screenings of Tamil films.

“We did this to protest against Tamil Nadu’s decision, which is detrimental to Karnataka’s interests,” KRV spokesperson B. Sanneerappa told IANS.

“On Tuesday we are organising a meeting of various pro-Kannada groups, Kannada writers, representatives of Dalit organisations to decide on steps to intensify the agitation, particularly in the Cauvery belt of Mysore, Chamarajnagar and Mandya districts,” he said.

KRV will also mount pressure on Karnataka Governor Rameshwar Thakur to approach the Supreme Court against the project, he said. Karnataka is currently under president’s rule.

The Hogenekkal project has also angered political parties in Karnataka, particularly the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Janata Dal-Secular. Former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa recently visited Hogenekkal with other BJP members and said his party would oppose the project.

State Congress president Mallikharjun Kharge condemned Karunanidhi’s statement, saying it was against the spirit of national unity.

“The people of Karnataka are not weaklings. They can reply in the same manner,” he told reporters. “Tamil Nadu should stop making provocative statements on such sensitive issues.”

Meanwhile, in Hogenakkal village, situated 350 km from Chennai, flag-waving protestors of the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) burnt effigies of Yediyurappa. They demanded the deployment of central paramilitary forces to “safeguard” their “interests”.

“The inflow of tourists - as important to our livelihood as the Cauvery water that descends here from the waterfalls - has seen a downturn due to the invasion by chauvinist (former) Karnataka chief minister (and his) attempt to usurp real estate rightfully belonging to Tamil Nadu,” said K. Rajesh, a VCK demonstrator.

“He (Yediyurappa) is trying to stop the water supply project that will quench parched throats in the districts of Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri. To safeguard our interests we demand deployment of central paramilitary forces here immediately. We will also stop all agent provocateurs coming here under disguise of tourists,” he added.

The foundation stone for the Rs.13.3 billion scheme, funded by Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC), was laid by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi Feb 26.

The Hogenakkal Water Supply and Fluorosis Mitigation Project is expected to cover 6,755 households in three municipal areas, 17 panchayats and 18 small towns, benefiting about three million people.

Safe drinking water would be provided from the waterfall to the fluoride-affected towns and villages in Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri districts bordering Karnataka.

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