Complying with the Supreme Court direction, Karnataka government has decided to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu despite "severe hardships", as protests in the wake of the court order intensified with the highway between Bengaluru and Mysuru blocked by farmers.
"Despite severe hardships faced by the government of Karnataka, the state will release water as directed by the Supreme Court," Chief Minister Siddaramaiah told media persons on Tuesday night after nearly a three-hour long all-party meeting convened by him in Bengaluru.
He also said the state would approach the Supreme Court with a modification petition explaining the its difficulties in implementing its order, directing release of 15,000 cusecs per day to Tamil Nadu for next ten days, and seeking change in it and also move the Cauvery Supervisory Committee.
The chief minister said it would be "difficult" for a Constitution-bound state to defy the Supreme Court order or to refuse release of water.
"With a heavy heart", it has been decided to provide water to Tamil Nadu even though the state itself was facing a "very severe distress" year, he said.
Seeking to assuage the feelings of protesting farmers in the Cauvery heartland of Mandya and other districts in the basin, he said all efforts would be made to provide drinking water to Bengaluru and other places as also for crops.
He appealed to farmers to maintain peace and tranquility and not to cause any damage to public property.
Speaking to reporters after the all-party meeting, former chief minister and Leader of Opposition in the Karnataka assembly Jagadish Shettar said BJP had asked the state government not to release water and try to "convince" the Supreme Court by filing a review petition.
He said that the state had "failed" in putting across to the court its case of drinking water scarcity and shortage of water for crops in Karnataka.
"....we have opposed the government's stand to release water," he added.
Janata Dal (Secular) leader Y S V Datta said "....our party suggested seeking the Prime Minister's intervention to solve the issue amicably."
He said his party was opposed to releasing of water to Tamil Nadu as it was against the interest of the state farmers.
In Mandya, agitated farmers and activists belonging to pro-Kannada outfits blocked Bengaluru-Mysuru Highway as protests intensified in the wake of the apex court directive to the state to release Cauvery water.
Mandya district, the nucleus of Cauvery politics, saw a bandh with protesters holding road blockades and dharnas at several places, as hundreds of security personnel, including Central forces, were deployed in the Cauvery belt to maintain law and order.
Prohibitory orders have been clamped around the Krishnarajasagar Dam and entry of visitors to it prohibited till September 9, as the Cauvery row hotted up after Monday's Supreme Court directive on a petition by Tamil Nadu government.
The court has directed Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water for the next 10 days to address the plight of the farmers in Tamil Nadu.
Protesters also mobbed and ransacked several government offices in Mandya forcing their shut down, while attendance at government offices remained thin, police said.
The court order triggered an immediate backlash with the farmers' body, spearheading the stir, calling for a bandh on Tuesday in Mandya district.
Shops, hotels and other commercial establishments and theatres and hotels remained shut and schools and colleges declared a holiday in Mandya district where state run and private buses were also off the roads.
Protests are also being held by farmers in Mysuru and Hassan districts, fed by the Cauvery, demanding that Karnataka should not release water.
G Madegowda, President of Cauvery Hita Rakshana Samithi, the body spearheading the agitation, criticised the chief minister and irrigation minister for their "irresponsible" behaviour over the Cauvery issue.
He also called the district MLAs to resign enmasse to protest against the "injustice."
In Bengaluru, some theatres stopped screening of Tamil movies as a "precautionary" step in view of the protests over Cauvery issue.
Siddaramaiah said the state had told the Supreme Court during the recent hearing that it was willing to release 10,000 cusecs or six days but it directed release of 15,000 cusecs for 10 days.
In a similar situation in 2012-13, the BJP government headed by Jagadish Shettar had released 10,000 cusecs for nine days, he said, adding that they had done so without taking the Opposition into confidence.
"Despite being in an extremely difficult situation, we have to obey the Court order," Siddaramaiah said, also noting that it has to be taken into account that the main petition would be coming up for hearing before the apex court on October 18.
As per the Cauvery tribunal order, Karnataka had to release 94 TMC ft of water from June to August end in a normal year but given the "severe distress", the state had provided 33 TMC ft during the period.
Amid the mounting protests, Bengaluru Tamil Sangam leaders on Tuesday met Home Minister G Parameshwara and sought protection for Tamils living in the state.
Reports from Tamil Nadu said inter-state bus services to Karnataka remained hit for the second day on Tuesday.
Buses to various destinations in Karnataka originating from Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Erode, Tirupur and Coimbatore districts were stopped in border towns such as Hosur, Sathyamangalam and Bannari.
However, some Karnataka State Transport Corporation buses were operated from Tamil Nadu. Also, private cars, vans and taxis and trucks with Karnataka registration were operated.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu demanded that the Siddaramaiah government comply with the court directive and suggested Chief Minister Jayalalithaa lead an all party delegation to Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the issue.
DMK President M Karunanidhi said the court order directing 15,000 cusecs for ten days "is certainly not enough for samba crops."
Image: A view of the Krishnarajasagar Dam in Mysuru on Tuesday. Photograph: PTI Photo