KARNATAKA

Mandya farmers' agitation petering out

MYSORE Nov. 10. The firm stand taken by the State Government in releasing water to Tamil Nadu from the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) Reservoir and the alleged high-handedness with which the agitation was controlled has affected the farmers' agitation in Mandya District.

Even as water keeps flowing to Tamil Nadu, the farmers' agitation has been restricted to organising dharnas in all taluks as a symbolic protest against the release of water, a marked departure from the earlier phase of the agitation.

Though farmers' leaders have announced that a decision on the next course of action will be taken after the Supreme Court's ruling on November 15, it is apparent that the agitation has lost steam.

The agitation, which was a spontaneous response to the Government's decision to let out water from KRS reservoir, has had serious consequences with cases being slapped against farmers after violence flared up, leading to the imposition of curfew. Cases under sections 307 and 392 of the IPC have been booked against 127 persons for allegedly indulging in arson and violence. According to a police official, cases have also been registered against those farmers who participated in the "jail bharo" agitation.

Fearing retribution from the police, the farmers, who had earlier volunteered to participate in the agitation, are now wary. Farmers in Srirangapatna, Arakere, T.M. Hosur, Shettihalli, Srinivasa Agrahara and other places have alleged that the police committed atrocities against them during the agitation.

The presence of a strong police force, including the Rapid Action Force (RAF), in Mandya has made farmers reluctant to go to the town. Most of the allegations of police atrocities in the town during and after the violence are against RAF personnel.

Denying that farmers took part in the violence that broke out in Mandya, a farmers' leader said police should identify the real culprits behind the violence.

He alleged that it was an attempt to malign and break the farmers' movement.

The Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, a native of Maddur taluk in Mandya District, is being called a "betrayer" of Mandya's interests to safeguard his position.

Irked by the Chief Minister's decision to release water, the farmers charged that he had reneged on his promise made during the padayatra.

Though the alleged police high-handedness is one of the factors responsible for the protests petering out, differences among the leaders and the political parties have effectively killed the agitation. While the Congress supported the Government's decision to release water, the Opposition parties condemned it.

Defending the Government's decision, Congress leaders in the district such as the K.R. Pet MLA, Chandrashekar, and the DCC President, L.R. Shivarame Gowda, even threatened to launch a counter-agitation against the farmers' movement if they failed to accept the Government's decision.

In the midst of the agitation, the leaders of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS), citing the attack on the Pandavapura MLA's residence, announced that they would participate only in peaceful dharnas and called off the "jail bharo" agitation. Stating that the agitation was loosing direction, they said farmers would not participate in violent protests, thus taking away a large chunk of farmers participating in the agitation.

The tenor of the agitation also changed because of the loss of public sympathy that the farmers had in the initial days. With life in the district coming to a grinding halt for nearly a month, people from all the sections of society were badly affected. This had a cascading effect on the economy of Mysore, especially during the Dasara festival when the tourist inflow reaches its peak.

Farmers are continuing with their dharna in eight centres across the district, and leaders such as the Mandya Jilla Raitha Hitarakshana Samiti President, G. Made Gowda, are trying to create awareness about the "failures" of the Government.

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