The law and order situation in both Kartaka and Tamil du seems to have gone entirely out of control over the sharing of the Cauvery waters. True, this is not the first time that there has been serious conflicts over the sharing of the waters of the Cauvery river that has its origin in Thalacauvery in the Kodagu hills of the Kartaka and traverses over 700 kilometres before entering the Bay of Bengal in Tamil du. The river flows for almost the same distance through both the States. The Cauvery waters have not only irrigated the fields of both the States, but have also had a major impact on their culture. Temples, mutts and centres of learning have been built on the banks of the river. In Tamil du alone there are more than 50 temples built on the banks of the Cauvery. No other river is as venerated as the Cauvery in Tamil du. The two regions (the creation of the States of Kartaka and Tamil du came much later) have been fighting for their share of the Cauvery waters since the days of the Chola kings and then through the years of British rule. According to the fil award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribul in 2007, an annual allocation of 192 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water has to be released to Tamil du by Kartaka in a normal year. This has aggravated the dispute mainly because it is not yet settled how much the release of water should be in distress years. Whenever Kartaka has a poor south-west monsoon, like this year, the water stored in its reservoirs is just enough for drinking and not for irrigation. That is why when on September 5 the Supreme Court directed Kartaka to release 15,000 cusec water every day (about 1.3 tmcft per day) till September 15 to Tamil du, irate farmers and pro-Kanda outfits of Kartaka directed their anger against the rulers of both the States. However, on September 12 the Supreme Court revised the earlier award to 12,000 cusec a day till September 20. The latest order of the Supreme Court had obviously much to do with the violence that had already broken out in both the States—especially in Kartaka after the order of September 5. The Supreme Court’s order of September 12 reminded citizens that they “cannot become law unto themselves”. While reducing the quantum of water that Kartaka had to release to Tamil du, the apex court directed Kartaka to share the Cauvery waters with Tamil du and ordered “inhabitants” on both States to behave. Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court had said, “The concept of deviancy has no room; and disobedience has no space. The citizens cannot become law unto themselves. When a court of law passes an order, it is the sacred duty of the citizens to obey the same.” Unfortutely, there was no dearth of groups in both the States that were in no mood to abide by the directives of the Supreme Court. And ironically, the ire of the people over the distribution of water found expression in fire. Acts of arson increased in both the States. In Kartaka any truck that had any remote link with Tamil du was deemed fit to be set on fire by protesting groups. Mobs carrying petrol cans, stones and crowbars torched 40 Volvo luxury buses owned by a Tamil du-based operator and 30 trucks carrying Tamil du number plates. Each of the luxury buses set on fire had cost the owner a crore of rupees.
This month’s violence was the worst in Kartaka after the 1991 Cauvery riots that had killed 28 people in Bangalore and prompted thousands to flee the city. The Centre has had to dispatch 14 CRPF companies (nearly 1,700 personnel) to Kartaka to quell the riots and the arson. There are many rivers all over the world that flow through two or more countries. One rarely hears about such violence erupting over the sharing of waters of such rivers. It is important for people in India to realize that what ture decreed that people of two neighbouring States should share, has to be done in peace and amity. No society can afford the violence that has erupted over the sharing of waters from a river that two States are destined to share.