Karnataka farmers threaten stir if protesters not freed

Bengaluru: Farmers’ associations in Karnataka on Tuesday threatened to launch a mass agitation if protestors were not released and senior police officers not suspended for the assault on women and children in Dharwad district during the July 30 shutdown.

“As part of the mass stir, we will first stage a demonstration on August 5 at the residence of the home minister (G. Parameshwara) here if our demands are not met by Thursday,” Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (state farmers body) Kodhihalli Chandrashekar told reporters at Dharwad, about 430km from here.

About 160 protesters, including farmers and traders, were arrested from Nargund and Navalgund towns in the district for allegedly attacking government offices and damaging public property during the shutdown.

The shutdown was observed in protest against an inter-state tribunal’s rejection of the state’s interim plea for releasing 7.6 tmc (thousand million cubic) feet of water from Mahadayi river to four drought-prone districts in the state’s northern region.

“False cases of arson and rioting were booked against the protestors after they were caned and arrested. They are jailed in neighbouring districts. They are poor people who cannot afford to pay for bail,” said Chandrashekar, an independent lawmaker from Hassan assembly segment.

If the demands are not met after the demonstration on August 5 here, the associations have decided to organise a mass rally on foot from Tiptur in Tumakuru district to Bengaluru on August 10, covering 150 km in five days to mark the Independence Day as a “black day”.

Tiptur is the hometown of Parameshwara, who is also the state unit president of the ruling Congress party.

Pro-Kannada organisations, including Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV), which led the shutdown, will join the agitation if their demands are not met.

“Suspending nine constables and sub-inspectors is not enough for the brutal attack on women, children and aged farmers in Yamanur and Alagawadi villages in the district. We want the district police superintendent and senior officers who ordered caning the victims also be suspended and a judicial inquiry by a high court judge,” KRV president Narayana Gowda told reporters.

Parameshwara apologised on July 31 for the alleged police brutality, ordered a departmental inquiry, transferred the district’s deputy police superintendent and suspended Navalgund circle inspector after video footage and pictures of the assault went viral in social media and were aired by news channels.