The past two weeks have been crazy. A city gone haywire because of an old unresolved conflict; It was something I never imagined would happen here, it has happened before but I personally have never seen anything like it.
There has been a long-standing conflict over Kaveri River, which passes through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Both the states have been fighting over it, each claiming their rights over it. This was has been going on since the past 100 years. There have been many incidences of violence in all these years.
Last week, the Supreme Court had directed Karnataka government to release some water to Tamil Nadu. This caused a huge amount of tension in the city. We had a full day strike and all the schools, colleges, offices and all commercial establishments had to be shut down. We ended up having an unscheduled holiday. There were dangers of mob violence, I had heard many people went to workplaces and shops and forced them to close up. Though thankfully nothing happened and it turned out to be a well rested long weekend for everyone.
On Monday, I was sitting in my new office, trying to analyze and translate a particularly difficult document, when I got a text from a friend that suddenly something had flared up in a few areas and the police had begun imposing Section 144, which means unlawful assembly was banned. I didn’t know why this happened. So I googled and found that there was a change in the amount of water to be released but it still was not in favor of Karnataka.
That is when hooliganism took over the city like wildfire. There was a lot of stone pelting, vehicle burning and rioting going on. Some of my colleagues were very worried about reaching home as their only mode of transport was bus and the buses were being stopped mid-way and people were being asked to get out. Some buses weren’t even running. I have been driving to work ever since I joined, so I had my car, but these people lived far away from where I lived, so I couldn’t even drop them. So they packed up and left early and somehow they reached home hours later. I left at the usual time as I knew there would be a huge traffic jam because of everyone trying to leave early. And it was a good decision as I was able to reach home in 30 minutes because of lack of traffic. But it was scary too, as the street lights were mostly off, there was no one around and the shops were closed.
The entire day I had been receiving updates from my local friends and I had been relaying this information to everyone. There had been many incidences of people burning the Tamil Nadu registered vehicles and buses coming from there. It was scary and horrible to see the city going haywire. When I reached home, I saw the news and found out that around 55 buses had been burnt and one person had died as a result of police firing and curfew had been imposed on most parts of the city. I could not believe this, I had never seen something like this!
I was in touch with my manager who was on vacation and my entire team was giving her the updates. She in turn had to get in touch with the higher management and it was decided that the next day, we would stay back at home rather than putting our lives in danger by stepping out. I was aghast; rioting and curfew being imposed! The situation reminded me that Jammu and Kashmir faces this situation everyday. It was scary how a normally peaceful city could turn into a potential warzone in a matter of two days. But thankfully, nothing much happened and gradually normalcy returned by evening. There were a few sporadic instances of minor stone pelting but the police forces had taken care of them. Over 300 people had been arrested.
I am neither pro-karnataka nor pro-Tamil Nadu with regards to this water sharing issue; that’s why I haven’t laid out any facts or figures about it here. But I do feel appalled that we couldn’t reach an agreement over an already depleting natural resource. Agreed we might not have enough to share but reaching some kind of a compromise wasn’t out of reach. And we aren’t even two different countries, we are two states in a single country. Yet I saw people expressing extreme hatred towards each other on social media. On one hand we call ourselves patriotic and paint our faces with the Indian flag, and on the other, we voice our hatred to each other. Hypocrisy is an understatement. I have been accused of being unpatriotic just because I refused to paint my face, but isn’t this more of an unpatriotic attitude? Where we stay united for the sake of it but let an issue rattle us and divide us! How is that patriotism? I just don’t understand how people justify all of this!
There have been many theories positing that someday in the future, wars would be fought over water; water is often called as the “Blue Gold”, another dying resource provoking wars. As if we didn’t have enough of those, this would add fuel to the already stoked fire. And these past few days have led me to think that there might just be some truth to this theory.
Last weekend, my 11 year old student was struggling to make sentences in French. So he made a sentence which translated to, “Spain has beautiful Spanish dolphins.” When I said that he would have to come up with a better sentence than that as his school teacher would want it, he asked why animals don’t have nationalities and humans do. I was intrigued by his question and I think his logic was sound. So I told him that humans are crazy, there is no explanation as to why this is so. But then animals are better than us, they wouldn’t let such concepts divide them. We humans do. We are so divided by so many factors. Why can’t we be like these animals?
We are up in arms for anything and everything, it is sad to see that people don’t understand that if we could just live and let live, we could co-exist peacefully.
But then how would the politicians survive? I guess the root cause of all the problems in this world is politics, that is what fans the flames and spreads the fire further; politics is what exacerbates most controllable situations. And the already frustrated commoners get frustrated even more and wind up getting influenced by these politicians to exactly do what the politicians want them to do; creating more chaos. With due respect to all the natural disasters, it is the politicians who will annihilate the mankind. Mother nature is but a mute spectator to the self-destruct mode the humans have been designed with. Though the trouble is, it is the commoners who will suffer the most, while the politicians will be busy soaking in the sadistic pleasure they would derive from witnessing the commoners getting decimated.
Is this a pessimistic piece of writing? Or is it mostly pessimistic with a sprinkling of optimism? I would reckon it is the latter as I have mentioned that thing called hope again. But as much as I daydream that things resolve and this is a mere hiccup, practicality leads me to think that the depleting resources versus the ever-increasing population will indeed lead to our worst nightmares. But being a commoner, all I can do is hope that our future generations don’t suffer as much we fear. And that we could work at resolving at least some issues on our own too, all the while showing the politicians that we are capable of making some difference despite all their efforts to stop us from doing so.