The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drowning churns Cauvery

Sept. 19: Karnataka politics went into a tizzy today following last night’s drowning of a Congress politician-cum-farmer in the Kabini river as he was leading a protest against the release of Cauvery waters to Tamil Nadu.

The incident led to violence in the Mandya, Mysore, and H.D. Kote regions through the night. The S.M. Krishna government has responded by indefinitely suspending the discharge of water.

A number of meetings and discussions involving the Cabinet as well as leaders from different parties were held to evolve plans to tackle the situation. It was decided to hold a meeting of all state parties on September 21 at New Delhi. The Cabinet also decided to hold a special session of the legislature on September 24 to review new developments.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had ruled that Karnataka has to release 1.25 tmc feet of Cauvery water every day into the Mettur dam in Tamil Nadu. Almost immediately, farmers in Karnataka had started their protests.

Later, a meeting of the Cauvery River Authority chaired by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had reduced the quantum of water to be released to 0.70 tmc feet. But it failed to satisfy the farmers and they continued the agitation.

This morning, the state government said it had stopped the release of water to help the search for the body of the missing farmer. However, water supply had not resumed even till evening, long after the body of the farmer, Guruswamy of Beechanahalli village, had been found. Guruswamy was a gram panchayat member and a local leader of the Congress.

According to police, Guruswamy and four other activists — Kumara, Shivalungu, Murugesh and Ramesh — broke away from a group of demonstrators outside the Kabini reservoir after police prevented them from entering. They went over to a bridge across the river and jumped. This, apparently, was done for the benefit of television crews and photographers who had assembled at the site.

The plan, according to the police, was to swim across to the other side of the river. While the other four managed to swim across, Guruswamy drowned.

Police had to lob teargas shells and cane-charge the large mob of farmers and demonstrators. Violence erupted in adjoining districts as news of the drowning spread. Prohibitory orders were enforced in these districts.

In Chennai, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa has convened an all-party meeting tomorrow evening to discuss the situation arising out of the farmers’ protests. Jayalalithaa said she has sought an appointment to meet the Prime Minister on Saturday. The chief minister would lead the all-party delegation.

On the agenda for the all-party meet, Jayalalithaa said: “We will discuss and decide on what kind of memorandum should be presented to the Prime Minister…. As to what I actually say to the Prime Minister, I can brief you on that only after I meet the Prime Minister in New Delhi.”

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