Two dead in water riots in India’s Silicon Valley

india water protest alexandra field lok_00000810.jpg
Protests rise in India over water usage
01:09 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

NEW: Following the deaths of two people, paramilitary forces restore relative calm

Demonstrators burn cars, trucks and buses after court ruling

Supreme Court orders Karnataka state to release water to neighboring Tamil Nadu

New Delhi CNN  — 

Relative calm has been restored to the Indian city of Bangalore following the deaths of two men amid riots over an ongoing water dispute.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to protesters to exercise restraint and follow the law as a heavy paramilitary presence was deployed Wednesday. Protests began earlier this week over a water sharing deal between the Indian states of Karnataka and neighboring Tamil Nadu.

One demonstrator was shot dead by police, Karnataka chief minister S Siddaramaiah said in a press conference Tuesday. Another died in hospital following injuries sustained from a fall while fleeing police during Monday’s clashes.

Protests after court ruling

Tempers have been running high on Karnataka’s streets since a September 5 Supreme Court ruling which ordered the state to release 15,000 cubic feet of water per second per day (cusecs) from its reservoirs to relieve drought-stricken farmers in Tamil Nadu.

Millions of farmers in both states rely on water from the Cauvery River – which originates in Karnataka and flows into Tamil Nadu before feeding into the Bay of Bengal – for irrigation. As the monsoon rains wind down in southern India in September, sources of drinking water run short.

Farmers also struggle to meet their farming needs. Tamil Nadu claims it is not receiving enough water and blames Karnataka for holding it in its reservoirs. The latter claims the former is asking for more than it actually needs.

After rumblings of unrest, the Supreme Court on Monday reduced the level of water that had to be released by Karnataka to 12,000 cubic feet of water per second each day until September 30.

An Indian activist removes a traffic blockade on a major connecting road during a statewide strike in Bangalore on September 9, 2016.

Riots erupts after the court refused Karnataka’s request for a further reduction.

“We are ready to give up our lives but not Cauvery,” one protestor screamed, referring to the river that supplies the water to the reservoirs.

“Cauvery belongs to Karnataka,” the crowd shouted.

The dispute over Cauvery’s waters go back to early 1800, according to government records. The two-century-old disagreement has resulted in multiple settlements in the past, but none has resolved the issue.

Regaining control of the situation

State ministers held emergency meetings Tuesday after demonstrators vandalized shops and set fire to more than 100 cars, buses and trucks in Bangalore, Karnataka, after days of tension following a Supreme Court order to release water from the state’s reservoirs to neighboring state Tamil Nadu.

Bangalore is India’s original tech hub, home to campuses of many Indian and US tech giants, including Infosys, Microsoft and Google.

Thousands of police were deployed in the city in an attempt to regain control, while authorities banned large gatherings and imposed a curfew in several areas.