Agitated farmers and activists belonging to pro-Kannada outfits today blocked the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway in India's southern state of Karnataka as protests intensified in the wake of the Supreme Court directive to the state to release Cauvery water to Tamil Nadu.
Mandya district, the nucleus of Cauvery politics, saw a bandh (strike) with protesters holding road blockades and dharnas (peaceful demonstration) at several places, as hundreds of security personnel, including government forces, were deployed in the Cauvery belt to maintain law and order.
Prohibitory orders have been clamped around Krishnarajasagar Dam and entry of visitors to it prohibited till September nine, as the Cauvery row hotted up after the Supreme Court direction to Karnataka to release 15,000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu for the next 10 days to address the plight of the farmers there.
Protesters also mobbed and ransacked several government offices in Mandya forcing their shut down, while attendance at government offices remained thin, police said.
The Supreme Court's direction yesterday triggered an immediate backlash with the farmers' body spearheading the stir, calling for a bandh today in Mandya district.
Shops, hotels and other commercial establishments and theatres and hotels remained shut and schools and colleges declared a holiday in the district where state-run and private buses are also not plying.
Protests are also being held in Mysuru and Hassan districts, fed by the Cauvery, demanding that Karnataka should not release water.
Venting their anger, protesters burnt effigy of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa at several places.
Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who is holding a meeting of? senior Ministers, legal experts and officials, has also invited legislature floor leaders and MPs later today to discuss the further course of action.
Meanwhile, the government appealed to people not to resort to agitation and to maintain calm.
"My appeal to the public is that don't resort to agitation...And keep calm and we will make all efforts to protect the interest of the farmers," law and parliamentary affairs minister T B Jayachandra told reporters in Bengaluru.
Jayachandra said people should maintain calm as it is an order by the Supreme Court and the government needs to go before the Cauvery supervisory committee and convince it.
"My appeal is be calm, and don't spoil any government property or anything because it is a Supreme Court order. We have to go before the Supervisory Committee and we want to try to convince (it) also," the minister said.
Former chief minister and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's state president B S Yeddiyurappa asked the government to file a petition countering the Supreme Court order.
In Mandya city, Kannada Rakshna Vedike outfit activists held a bike rally and burnt the effigy of Jayalalitha.
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 en masse to protest against the "injustice."