Staff Correspondent

People set fire to equipment of mining firms; farmers loot fertilizer outlet

Officially, seven companies are engaged in mining in the area

People say mining companies did not keep

their word

Tumkur: C.N. Halli in Tumkur district was rocked by violence on Thursday when people set fire to the equipment of mining companies near a place of worship and farmers looted fertilizers from an outlet and damaged three buses, in different incidents.

The people have been protesting against mining around the Abbige Malleshwara Temple at Honnebagi in C.N. Halli taluk.

The people of Honnebagi, Bullenahalli, Gollarahatti, Manchikatte and Jogihalli have been on a protest on the top of the hills since Monday.

Around 8 a.m., over a thousand people were climbing the hills to reach the temple to continue dharna. Minutes before they reached the place, some miscreants set fire to mining equipment on the hills. The police attempt to foil their plan failed.

Officially, seven companies are engaged in mining in the area. Several others are also into illegal mining on the hills and around it.

At least ten huge machines (JCB brand), five stone-crushers, and some tents, where workers live, were set on fire. There was no attempt to extinguish the fire either by the mining staff or the police. The equipment were destroyed.

Four years ago, the mining companies had given an undertaking to the people that they would not take up mining 200 metres around the temple and that they would donate liberally towards creating basic infrastructure in the these villages.

H.M. Surendraiah, B.N. Shivaprakash, Basavaraju, Erannaiah, Sarveshwara, Ramesh, and Sridhar, are leading the people’s agitation against mining.

According to them, the mining companies failed to keep their word. Mining was on within 50 metres of the religious place and the temple structure faced danger.

The people alleged that the companies had, of late, engaged middlemen and had ignored the people of the villages.

The police, who tried in vain to stop the agitators from going atop the hill, detained some women who were worshipping at the temple and that led to a clash between the people and the police.

Broken bangles were found strewn at the temple and around it, giving credence to the people’s allegation that the police manhandled the women, before top officials arrived on the scene.

Superintendent of Police Harsha P.S. persuaded the agitators to go down the hill and participate in a peace committee meeting. The people argued that they were not responsible for the arson and alleged that it was the handiwork of the agents of the companies. It was an attempt to bring a bad name to the agitators.

Deputy Commissioner C. Somashekhara directed the officials of the Department of Mines and Geology to convene a meeting of the people and the mining company representatives on August 2 at the temple and sort out the issue.

There was some confusion as initially the incident was linked to the ongoing farmers’ agitation in the district against shortage of fertilizers.

Lathi-charge

At Nehru Circle, the police burst tear gas shells and lathi-charged farmers. Forty farmers were injured.

The farmers have been agitating in several parts of the district since July 14. It may be recalled that on Wednesday the farmers locked up the taluk office at C.N. Halli and ransacked its computer wing, following which the authorities promised them that fertilizers would be made available at all Agricultural Service Cooperative Societies in the taluk on Thursday.

By afternoon, fertilizers arrived in the taluk. A society in the heart of the C.N. Halli did not start the sale as not enough quantity of fertilizer was allocated to it while there were more than a thousand farmers outside.

The farmers, who got impatient over the delay in distribution, entered the society and took away fertilizers. Even as the police were called in, the farmers attacked three private buses that had been stranded following the road blockade (by the farmers). One of the three buses was totally damaged.

The police burst tear gas shells and caned farmers at different places in the town to restore order.

The injured were treated as out-patients at the local hospital.

The Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police visited the spot and pacified the farmers.

Dr. Somashekhara said more fertilizer supplies were expected and the shortage would ease by the weekend.

More In: KARNATAKA | NATIONAL