Farmers hunger strike over Cauvery water release

Mandya (Kar): A farmers’ body spearheading the stir against release of Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu began a relay hunger strike here in protest against Karnataka’s action and warned that people would stop paying taxes if government did not heed their demand to stop the flow by this evening.

“We have set a deadline to the government… if the water release is not stopped by this evening, people will resort to a civil disobedience movement by not paying taxes,” Cauvery Hitarakshana Samithi President G Madegowda told reporters.

Karnataka has been releasing 9,000 cusecs since Sunday, in compliance with a Supreme Court directive. Gowda, a former MP, said he has decided not to go on an indefinite fast on a plea by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda.

Raitha Sangha (Farmers Association) leaders said they would lay seige to Raj Bhavan today in Bangalore, demanding intervention of Governor H R Bharadwaj on the Cauvery water issue and to safeguard the state’s interest.

Meanwhile, opposition Congress leader in the assembly Siddaramaiah commenced a padayatra from Mysore to Mandya to express solidarity with the agitating farmers. Authorities at Krishna Raja Sagar reservoir stepped up security in the wake of escalated protests when thousands of farmers tried to lay siege to the dam and also the Kabini reservoir yesterday, demanding closure of crest gates to stop the flow.

District authorities had deployed Rapid Action Force at the KRS dam. Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar had urged farmers to maintain peace and said the state would file a review petition before the Supreme Court, praying for a review of the Cauvery River Authority directive.

The Karnataka government began releasing water after the Supreme Court asked it to abide by the September 19 directive of the Cauvery River Authority, headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh till October 15.

Shettar urged Madegowda not to undertake the fast and assured him that government is committed to protect the interests of farmers. He told reporters that government would move the Supreme Court today, seeking a direction to CRA to review its September 19 order.

The Cauvery Hitarakshna Samithi has been critical of Shettar, alleging that he had reneged on his promise of not releasing water under any circumstances.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who is from Mandya district, had a telephonic talk with District Congress President M S Atmananda and asked to him to prevail on Madegowda to give up his plan to undertake a relay fast.

Atmananda said Krishna told him he would call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his return and apprise him of the difficult situation faced by Karnataka due to drought. In Bangalore, former Chief Minister and JDS state unit president H D Kumaraswamy urged people to reject BJP and Congress to enable the state get justice from the Centre over this issue.

“Karnataka has been facing injustice on the Cauvery water sharing issue from time immemorial,” he told reporters.