Bengaluru/New Delhi: Widespread violence broke out in southern Karnataka on Monday over the apex court order to release Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu, with angry Kannadiga protesters torching over 30 buses of a Tamil-owned bus depot in Bengaluru.
The KPN bus depot at the Kengeri yard glowed orange as flames leapt up and smoke engulfed the sky as the buses were gutted. A few hundred protesters had entered the bus depot and reportedly manhandled the drivers and other employees present there.
Managing Director of the Salem-headquartered KPN Tours and Travels Limited Rajesh Natarajan claimed that 40 of his buses were set on fire.
A dozen trucks bearing Tamil Nadu registration were smashed and their goods thrown on the streets.
A woman TV journalist and her cameraman were also beaten up by protesters during the violence in the tech city.
The city police has clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code as a preventive measure in Bengaluru city from Monday evening.
About 10 platoons of Rapid Action Force and Central Reserve Police Force were deployed in sensitive areas across the city to prevent protestors from damaging public property, including vehicles bearing Tamil Nadu registration numbers.
"We have also taken about 200 protestors into custody on the charges of rioting, arson and resorting to violence to damage public property and causing unrest in the city," State Home Minister G. Paramehswar said.
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has called an emergency Cabinet meet on Tuesday morning to discuss the Cauvery issue.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Siddaramaiah and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa over phone to enquire about the tense situation.
Siddaramaiah said he has requested the Centre for additional security forces.
Pro-Kannada protesters also pelted stones at lorries bearing Tamil Nadu registration numbers near Hubli Bypass and also vandalised many vehicles.
Hundreds of pro-Kannada activists staged demonstrations in many areas of the city protesting attacks on Kannadigas and Karnataka-registered buses in Chennai and some parts of Tamil Nadu earlier in the day.
In view of the brewing tension, inter-state buses with Tamil Nadu registration suspended services to the neighbouring state. Trucks and other vehicles also withdrew operating in the city.
Offices and eateries were shut as panic spread after the Supreme Court order. Within hours of the apex court order to release 12,000 cusecs of the river water daily till September 20, angry protesters took to streets and targetted initially trucks bearing Tamil Nadu registration numbers and attacked hotels and shops in localities where more Tamils reside across the city.
As per the 2011 census, around 2.5 million of the 10-million people in the city are Tamils, constituting the second largest community after Kannadigas.
Vehicular traffic on the busy 150 km Bengaluru-Mysuru state highway came to a standstill as hundreds of protestors staged demonstrations at Ramanagaram, Kengeri, Mandya and Srirangapatna against the apex court's latest order.
In Tamil Nadu, security has been beefed up for business establishments owned by Kannadigas and also outside the homes of noted Kannada personalities, police said on Monday.
Police also said action has been taken against the assailants who had attacked a hotel.
A group of unidentified assailants attacked the New Woodlands Hotel, owned by a Kannadiga, in Mylapore over the Cauvery row.
A hotel employee confirmed the incident, adding that no one was injured in the attack.
A bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit gave the direction for 12,000 cusecs of Cauvery water release on Monday while modifying its September 5 order by which it had asked Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water every day for the next ten days.
It also rejected Karnataka's plea to keep the September 5 order in abeyance.
The court directed the next hearing of the matter on September 20.
Expressing disappointment over the apex court's order, Parameshwar said the government would again approach it to modify the latest order due to water shortage in the reservoirs.