Modi urges calm in Indian tech hub over water protests

September 13, 2016 10:53 AM

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, September 4, 2016. — Reuters picBANGALORE, Sept 13 — Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed for calm today in the Indian tech hub of Bangalore which has been placed under curfew after deadly violence erupted over a long-running dispute with a neighbouring state over access to water.

Around 15,000 police officers were deployed on the largely deserted streets of the southern city to enforce a curfew, after rampaging, stone-pelting mobs set buses and cars ablaze yesterday.

One protester was killed overnight after police fired on a mob which was trying to torch a police car, T.R. Suresh, deputy police commissioner for the city’s north, told AFP.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the violence “distressful” and urged restraint in the city, which is home to Indian IT companies and offices of international tech giants such as Microsoft and Dell.

“This dispute can only be solved within the legal ambit. Breaking the law is not a viable alternative,” Modi said in a series of Tweets.

“The violence and arson seen in the last two days is only causing loss to the poor, and to our nation’s property.”

Protests erupted over a Supreme Court order for Karnataka state, of which Bangalore is the capital, to release water from a river to ease a shortage in Tamil Nadu until later this month.

India suffers severe water shortages that cause frequent tensions between states and the row over the Cauvery River stretches back decades.

A curfew was imposed in 15 areas of the city for the next three days “to maintain peace and prevent untoward incidents” during the Muslim holiday of Eid, Bangalore police commissioner N.S Megharikh told reporters.

Some 200 protesters have been arrested on rioting on other charges in a bid to quell the violence, which has forced shops, offices and schools to close.

While Bangalore was calm today, angry protests were staged along the 150-kilometre (93-mile) highway from the capital to the city of Mysore.

“A grave injustice is being done to us as the state is forced to release more water for growing crops in Tamil Nadu when we don’t have sufficient water for even drinking because of deficit rains,” Pravish Shetty, who heads a group campaigning for the rights of Karnataka people, told local TV.

Cable operators in Karnataka have also blocked scores of Tamil Nadu television channels in a bid to defuse tensions, while bus services between the two states have also been suspended.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah warned today of tough punishments for anyone involved in fresh violence.

Vehicles with Tamil Nadu registration plates were attacked yesterday and protesters blocked roads by burning tyres and torching effigies of politicians.

“A group of unidentified miscreants barged into our bus yard and set 30 of our coaches on fire with kerosene or petrol,” Rajesh Natarajan, managing director of KPN Tours & Travels, a company based in Tamil Nadu, told local television.


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