The state-wide bandh called by pro-Kannada groups in Karnataka on Saturday opposing the government's decision to create a corporation for Maratha community, received a lukewarm response with no major impact on normal life. Other than stray incidents like miscreants pelting stones on buses at K R Puram and Chandpura in the city, the day passed off by and large peacefully.
Autorickshaws, cabs, public transport buses and metro services were on the roads as usual while hotels and shops and establishments were open. Vehicular movement was by and large normal in various parts of the city and similar reports have come in from other parts of the state.
Activists from several Kannada organisations who tried to gather near the city's Town Hall for staging demonstrations were detained and taken away by the police. Protests have also been reported in Chamarajanagara, Bengaluru Rural, Gadag, Koppa, Hassan, Ramanagara, Chitradurga, Davangere, Bagalkote, Chikkamagaluru and Mandya, among other districts.
Vatal Nagaraj of Kannada Chaluvali Vatal Paksha, along with other leaders of the coalition of Kannada organisations were detained near Town Hall as he came there to lead the protest, while Karnataka Rakshana Vedike President Narayana Gowda and other leaders of his organisation were detained as they tried to march towards the CM's residence. Police had made elaborate security arrangements in the city to ensure that no untoward incident takes place.
Security had been beefed up around the Chief Minister's official residence and home office here, where some activists had planned to stage a sit-in. Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa is in Belagavi to attend the BJP's state executive meeting.
Speaking to reporters, Nagaraj claimed that about 25,000-30,00 Kannada activists were detained across the state to foil the protest and the bandh, but the agitation would continue until Yediyurappa resigned and the order on establishing the corporation was withdrawn. He also threatened "jail bharo" protest and said a meeting has been called on December 9 in this regard.
"Yediyurappa is a cheater, he has cheated Kannada and Kannadigas….He is behaving like a Hitler and using police against Kannada activists," he said as he questioned the silence of Congress and JD(S) leaders. Yediyurappa on Friday urged the pro-Kannada groups not to go ahead with the bandh, calling it "unnecessary", as he asserted that Kannadigas and Kannada were his government's utmost priority.
He had earlier clarified that the decision to set up a Maratha Development Corporation had nothing to do with the Marathi language, and it is for the Maratha community residing in the state. Speaking to reporters in Belagavi, Home Minister Basavaraj Bommai said, as expected people of the state have not responded to the bandh call and life has been normal in Bengaluru and across the state with offices, private and public transport functioning.
"Things have been peaceful, at some places there were stray incidents of burning tyres, forceful imposition of bandh and also pelting stones on buses.Police have taken action," he said. The pro-Kannada organisations had set a November 30 deadline for the government to withdraw its decision to establish Maratha Development Corporation.
The government's decision to create a body for the Maratha community is seen as a move by the ruling BJP to woo the community ahead of the Belagavi Lok Sabha, Maski and Basavakalyan assembly bypolls, which are yet to be announced. The community is said to have considerable presence there.
The government had earlier announced the setting up of the Maratha Development Authority, but subsequently changed it to corporation, as authority has to be constituted by a law, by passing an act in the legislature. Despite opposition, the government, following the cabinet approval, has issued a formal order establishing the Maratha Development Corporation, with an allocation of Rs 50 crore, which has irked the pro-Kannada groups ..