India’s Beef Ban

The Ban

The Indian government has imposed a ban on the the sale and purchase of cattle from markets for slaughter under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017. Now I haven’t quite worked out why this is restricted to cattle and not any other animal, or bird for that matter, but the effect is a complete ban on the sale and consumption of beef. (Why goats and chickens for example aren’t included in this ban is baffling to me.)

Uproar

Now, as you can imagine, this has caused uproar. Not only from the Muslim community who are currently fasting during Ramadan/Ramzan and prepare feasts following fasts, but from the general population who see it as government interference in their daily lives. They are right of course. The ‘saffron haze’ has an affect on daily lives, which I think might be the purpose – to stop people eating beef. It’s certainly focussed thoughts on Hinduism.

This is worrying on several counts but also because it encourages vigilantism from those trying to stop beef consumption. There have been lynchings and violent attacks recently. These are all on the pretext of preserving the cow. The government hasn’t introduced an anti lynching law but murder is murder and these murderers need to be brought to justice and quickly.

The state governments are in uproar as they see the federal government encroaching on territory reserved for them. State governments have the power to regulate cattle trade and animal markets, or at least they did.

Beef Export Trade

The rules are supposed to regulate the cattle trade. It will hit the beef export trade. India is the world’s second largest exporter of beef. I am not sure how that position will be maintained if cattle can’t be slaughtered. 

Dairy Trade

It will also hit dairy farmers too. They will not be able to send cattle to slaughter after the milk production has stopped, making dairy higher priced as farmers maintain animals effectively as pets. I think India might be the world’s largest milk producer , so that will be hit as well.

Leather trade

The ban will also hit the leather trade. If no cattle is being slaughtered then leather products will be goat hide and similar. 

What next?

I can see this being challenged on several fronts, not only by the state governments but by human rights groups who see this as a control on their freedom of what to eat. It will certainly be interesting over the next few days and weeks.

Dubare Elephant Camp 

A rescue elephant who is blind in one eye

The journey

We set off for our long holiday weekend on Thursday evening and headed for Mysore. It took 5 hours to do a journey normally taking 3 due to the holiday and commuter traffic. We checked into the hotel Sandesh The Prince for the night. Unfortunately and, as is sadly usual in India, despite it being me who was checking in, I was roundly ignored and the reception staff starting talking to Rez about facilities etc. We both looked at each other and Rez turned around and walked away so they could only talk to me. Not defeated by this jesture the reception staff just talked even louder to Rez as he walked off! The hotel reception and atrium were well maintained and beautifully decorated. The same could not be said for the rather tired looking rooms. The extra bed we had ordered for Zahra had also not been supplied and after some arguing it transpired there was an extra charge of ₽500 (£6) so hadn’t supplied it. Eventually it appeared and we settled in for the night. Our sleep was brief though as we were rudely awakened at 5am by the caged parakeets in the atrium squeaking to each other. Breakfast was traditional Indian and rather tasty. Checkout service was equally as bad as check in service. What a shame.

Zahra ‘steers’ the boat
Not very reassuring!
Car unloaded ready for the boat across
 

We headed to Dubare (stopping briefly at Decathlon as Rez had forgotten to bring anything other than his work shoes for the weekend!). 2.5 hours later we arrived at the river bank, a little confused as to where we were supposed to head to. After asking around we discovered we were in the right place. We had to beep the car horn and a boat would be sent across for us – and indeed that is exactly what happened. 

Dubare Elephant Camp

Quite possibly the quickest check in ever in India – super efficient manual system. We were shown to our “luxurious cottages with attached bath facility. Located in an idyllic part of the Cauvery River, “. We had a river view cottage which had basic facilities (beds, wet room, patio and a hammock) and was perfectly fine for one night.

Dubare Elephant camp
Villas in the mist
 

We settled in and headed over for our Indian lunch at 1:30pm. There was plenty to choose from, even if it was a little over chilli’d for our (read “Rez’s”) tastes. During lunch the wildlife guide chatted to us about the schedule over the next 24 hours. Tea at 4pm followed by a jeep safari in the jungle from 4:30pm to 6:30pm (we got back later than that); then an educational wildlife documentary for an hour (about elephants, obviously) followed by a campfire and supper. Day two was an early start with tea at 6am followed by a nature walk from 6:30am to 8am. Breakfast was 8am to 8:30am then elephant washing until 10am. The actually schedule went on longer than that.

The Jeep safari


After Zahra explored the camp and played on the rope tyre and hammock we headed off for the jeep safari. 

It was stunningly beautiful scenery as well as spotting many animals. We saw spotted deer, peacocks, Malabar giant tree squirrels (brown and cream coloured with a tail like a fox), Malabar parakeets (also known as blue winged parakeets), buffaloes, eagles, “Indian God cattle”, paper wasps (“very dangerous” – as they sting unprovoked and its super painful and can cause anaphylactic shock) and elephants. We also saw the 200 year old ruins of a temple and a fish poison tree.

On the jungle safari
Jungle safari at dusk
Spot the deer!
Herd of cattle
 

The wildlife film

The guide was very knowledgeable and we were quite tired after being out in the 35C heat for several hours. No time for rest though as we headed straight into the wildlife film about elephants and humans living in the same space and the conflict that causes. It was quite interesting to see the tactics employed to move elephants on when they ventured into crops. The focus was on moving the elephants on with minimal distress to the elephants (and the farmers whose crops were being destroyed). 

The campfire and dinner

After the film we sat around the campfire (and at 8pm the temperature was probably around 25C) and ate our dinner starters. We had to move our chairs as far back as possible to remove ourselves from the heat whilst others, more used to the Indian temperatures, drew closer. The camp dogs were well behaved and were clearly looking for treats as the scampered around. (We discovered them the next morning are snuggled together in the ashes to keep warm.)

We headed inside for dinner which was a great buffet selection of Indian dishes. There was a lot to choose from and we ate plenty. We headed to bed after dinner as it had been a long day and we were all tired and happy. 

The Nature walk

I’m glad we did as we were woken by loud Indian music playing over all the camp at 5:30am to 6am to ensure everyone was awake for the jungle trek. Zahra managed to still sleep through it and was less than impressed when we woke her. Still we headed over the the central hut / restaurant, had tea and departed for our walk with the guide. We wore suitable clothing for a jungle trek. One happy camper who joined us did so in her pyjamas and flip flops!

The eagle has landed
The edge of the Cauvery river
Misty morning in the jungle


The Elephant camp

After breakfast the guide walked us over the footbridge into the Elephant camp. The mahouts were already out in the jungle collecting ‘their’ elephants. We headed down the the riverbank and watched as boat loads of other tourists came over to watch and join in the spectacle of elephant bathing and washing. 

Karnataka’s history with elephants goes a long way back and currently the state’s Forest Department has about 150 elephants in various camps. After logging operations were ceased there were domesticated unemployed elephants in addition to the rescued elephants which had various life threatening injuries. The Dubare Camp, the camp where elephants were trained for the famous Mysore Dasara, was converted to a rescue and training centre and a tourist attraction. The aim is to have guests and tourists leave the camp with a sense of responsibility to do their bit towards protecting elephants. 

Our guide, a trained naturalist, talked about the complexities of elephant history, ecology and biology throughout the morning and he answered lots of questions. The first I had was about the chains the elephants had around their ankles. This had two purposes, the noise was like a rattle so mahouts and others could hear where the elephants were and where they are moving to. The other was to protect tourists in the camp. The chain would be attached to the two front ankles, limiting the elephant to to walking pace, whilst they were in the camp with tourists. This appeared to be for about an hour to an hour and a half. The rest of the time the chain was on one ankle like a noisy bracelet. I also asked about how the elephants were tamed or “domesticated” as the guide stated, as I have seen some truly awful and cruel film clips of poachers taming elephants using nails and metal hooks. The guide was horrified (a good reaction) and told us that rescued elephants were confined in huge wooden pens (and they were huge) for a period of time whilst the assigned mahout develops a relationship with the elephant by petting it and feeding it. Only when the mahout feels he has adeveloped a good relationship with the elephant will training for basic commands begin. It is clear that the mahouts in the Dubare camp have genuine concern for the health and well being of the elephants in their charge and were quite protective of them whilst they were in the camp amongst tourists.

We didn’t wait long before we could hear the rattle of chains and the appearance of the elephants with their mahouts. They were massive up close.

Elephant bathing

The elephants appeared one after the other as they wandered down to the water for a drink. They drink 6-8 litres of water in one trunk and take about 200 litres of water a day. They enjoyed being in the water. The mahouts then came to the waters edge and the elephants laid down for a scrub. This is were we joined in. Only allowed at the back top of the elephant we splashed the water over its body and helped rub it down. The skin was soft and rubbery as well as hairy. The skin is 1.5 inches thick too. The mahouts were really scrubbing the elephants. When too many people got close the mahouts shouted and people backed off. One baby elephant attracted a lot of attention but he had two young mahouts protecting him and they were very good at it. 

Bathing an elephant

As well as the body scrub the tusks and other intimate areas were cleaned by the mahouts. The elephants stood up when they had had enough, although one was quite keen on another scrub down after his bath and laid down again. Two elephants decided to shower some tourists, a lot! 

Feeding an elephant

After the bath we headed into the camp proper and watched as the mahouts prepared the elephants grain and grass ‘sandwhiches’ for the elephants. We were able to feed one elephant their breakfast and it’s quite a stretch getting food into an elephants mouth I can tell you!

Whilst we were feeding an elephant some other Mahouts were demonstrating how elephants obey commands and how they functioned during their earlier role in logging operations. (That made me feel uncomfortable as it reminded me of performing circus animals and was merely done to entertain the tourists.)

We were in the camp for several hours in the end and learnt a lot about the elephants and the mahouts. 

Departure

We headed back to the villa for a shower and change before checking out (which was supposed to be at 11am but we only left the elephant camp at 11:30am. No one seemed bothered by the late check out.)

The camp also had coracle rides available on the Cauvery river. Whilst we didn’t have time I also didn’t fancy spotting a crocodile or two. As we headed back across the river in the boat we saw crowds of people river rafting down the Cauvery river and the elephants heading off for a day eating in the jungle. 

I thoroughly recommend a visit.

Mahashrivarati

When is it?

It is an Hindu festival celebrated during the Hindu month of Phalgun which marks the end of the winter season on the first full moon day of the lunar month, which usually falls in the later part of February or March. It is on Friday 24th February in 2017.

What is it?



It is an Hindu festival celebrating the Hindu god, lord Shiva, known as the great destroyer of the universe. On this day he and his wife Parvati are worshipped by young girls and some men in the hope of getting a perfect mate for themselves; because this is the day Shiva and Parvati were married.The Maha Shrivarti festival marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti (which means ‘power’ or ’empowerment’ and represents the dynamic forces that are thought to move through the entire universe).

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How is it celebrated?

The festival is mainly celebrated by offering Bael leaves to Shiva together will all day fasting and an all night vigil called jagaran. All through the day devotees will change “Om Namah Shiva” being the mantra of Shiva. Penances are performed in order to gain ‘boons’ in the practice of yoga or meditation in order to reach life’s highest good steadily and swiftly. The positioning of the planets is also supposed to raise ones spiritual energy more easily and the ‘powerful’ ancient Sanskrit mantras are supposed to increase greatly on this night. The ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja (prayers) is at Nishita Kala which a complicated calculation of time but is usually within an hour each side of midnight. Nishita kala is the time Shiva appeared on earth in the form of a linga. On this day all Shiva temples the most auspicious lingodbhava puja is performed.


Mahashrivaratri in Southern India.

It is celebrated widely in the temples all over Karnataka. Shiva is considered to be the Adi ( first) Guru from which the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night create a powerful natural upsurge in energy in the body. It is believed to be beneficial for spiritual and physical well being to stay awake throughout the night. 

The Dwadasha Jyothirlinga Temple will be kept open from 6am on Friday 24th February till 6am on Saturday 25th February. During that time several rituals related to the festival will be performed on the temple premises.

The Impu Sangeetha Samsthe, a non profit organisation which promotes music, has organised a musical marathon in Bugle Rock Park in Basavanagudi. Professional singers will will perform Kannada film devotional songs continuously from 9am on Friday 24th to 1am on Saturday 25th (16 hours) without any breaks. They are hoping to raise funds for Aparna Seva Samsthe which provides free dialysis for the poor.

In Bangalore hundreds of extra buses are being laid on for the festival… ensuring more traffic jams here. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (‘BBMP’) issued a notice on 21st February banning the sale of any kind of meat in the city on 24th February. The civic body has also banned the slaughtering of any animals on the day of the festival in the city.


The mythology 

A hunter having failed to find any prey in the forest climbed a bel tree towards the evening to spend the night there. Whilst drinking some water he dropped some on the shiva lingam hidden beneath some bushes at the bottom of the tree. A doe came to the spring to drink water and the hunter too his aim but seeing the mutual love for each other in the doe’s family he let them all go unharmed. In the morning lord Shiva appeared before the hunter and blessed him, saying that when he had sprinkled water on the shiva linga and thrown bel leaves on it he had unwittingly worshipped lord Shiva. As a consequence lord Shiva bestowed wealth and prosperity on him. From that day the shiva lingam is worshipped on the day which has become known as Maha Shrivrati.


Legends

This is the favourite day of lord Shiva as he married Shakti, and his greatness and supremacy over all other Hindu gods is highlighted. It also celebrates the night when he performed the cosmic dance named ‘Tandava’. The Tandava is a vigorous dance believed to be the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. 
On this day Shiva also saved the world from the disasterous effects of poison from the tumultuous sea by consuming it all. Shiva stopped the poison in his throat using his yogic powers but his neck turned blue due to the effects and is known as the ‘blue throated’ as a consequence.


Interesting fact

The Tripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of ash , and sometimes a dot, applied to the forehead of Shiva worshippers. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity (or will) and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga) (or action). They also represent the three eyes of Shiva. It is a reminder of the spiritual aims of life, the truth that the body and material things shall become ash at some point and that self realisation and knowledge is a worthy goal.

The Good Samaritan law

What is it?

A law is being introduced in the state of Karnataka, India to protect “Good Samaritans” who assist in road traffic and other accidents and emergency situations. The bill is called “Karnataka Good Samaritan and Medical Professional (Protection and Regulation during emergency situations) Bill.* It is to ensure that there is quick medical attention for accident victims and encourage people to offer first aid to victims without the fear of legal proceedings.

Proposed Provisions

The bill encourages citizens to offer assistance without fear of criminal or civil liability, or be forced to be a witness. The examination of a volunteer as a witness shall be done only on a single occasion and without harassment or intimidation. It will ensure that Good Samaritans are not repeatedly summoned to attend court and other legal proceedings. State government will institute a system of reward and compensation to encourage more bystanders to be Good Samaritans. It provides for action to be initiated against officials or police violating these guidelines. Hospitals have to provide treatment without waiting for usual procedures.

 In addition the bill has a provision to reimburse expenses incurred by a Good Samaritan who assists an accident victim, including a taxi fare to take the victim to hospital. The state has allocated Rs5 crore** for this purpose.

Commentary

These statements are in itself very revealing as to why people do not get involved in accidents. Coming from the UK it is difficult to imagine having to deal with these issues. We are taught from a very early age to dial 999 in an emergency and request the appropriate service (ambulance, police, fire or coastguard). These services are ‘free’ and paid for through taxation. There is also legal protection for those called as witnesses in legal cases with employers compelled to give the time off.

I have discussed with staff previously about reluctance to get involved in accidents and offer assistance. They quite clearly stated that they would be liable for ambulance and hospital charges (be thankful for the NHS UK citizens) and the obligation to go to court meant that they may lose their jobs as days off have to be taken to attend and they do not get paid for loss of earnings or travel costs.

I hope that the introduction of this law will indeed mean that people will help their fellow citizens in accident and emergency situations and the world (or at least the state of Karnataka) will become a kinder place to live.

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* I am intrigued that a state in a Hindu nation is naming a bill after a parable in the Bible. 

**crore =100,000

Navaratri and Durga Puja


What is it?

This festival period is dedicated to the goddess Durga and observed all over India. It is called Durga Puja in West Bengal. The goddess Durga is the goddess of motherhood and of victory of good over evil. Durga means a fort or ‘invincible one’ and is considered the ‘mother of the universe’.

When is it?

The nine holy days in the month of Ashram (September or October). The day of Durga’s victory is celebrated as Dusserha (Hindi) meaning ‘the victory on the tenth day’ (see separate blog post on Dusserha). 

How is it celebrated?

In north India on either the eighth or ninth day of the festival the ladies of the house prepare delicious food for offering as Prasad. For nine consecutive days the ladies keep fast; on the festival day they give food to seven or nine young girls. It is a symbolic act of worshiping the goddess in the form of a virgin girl.

In south India a specially decorated deck is constructed in homes, on which idols, toys and other useful things are arranged. This edifice is known as ‘Bomma Kolu’. During this time women visit each other’s houses. Little gifts such as betel leaves, coconut, kumkum and turmeric are offered to the goddess. The ninth day is celebrated as Saraswati Puja when all the objects are worshipped as objects of learning and knowledge.

Worship of Mother Nature is done through nine types of plant (called Kala Bou) including plantain (banana) which represent the nine divine forms of the goddess Durga. In south India, especially Andra Pradesh, Dusserha Navaratri is also celebrated and the goddess is dressed each day as a different devi for the nine days.

In Mysore, Karnataka Durga is worshipped as the patron goddess of the city as it is believed she saved all the people from Mahishasura, the buffalo demon, who terrorised them. The city’s name originated from Mysoru after goddess Mardhini who slew the demon. The Dasara or Dusserha festival in Mysore attracts thousands of visitors annually on Vijayadashami (the tenth day) as it has a long tradition of celebrating in a grand and elaborate style. The parade of elephants, camels and horses is a notable part of this celebration as is the lighting of Mysore Palace.


The festival of Navaratri in the South Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh it is customary to display dolls and figurines called Bommai Kolu (‘divine presence’) or Bomma Golu, Bommala Koluvu (‘court of toys’). The doll festival is where young girls and women display dolls and figurines of court life and everyday life along with the divine presence of of the goddess Saraswati, Parvati and Laxmi for the nine nights.

Diary of a week in ‘water wars’.

Following my blogpost about the happenings on Monday, I kept some brief notes throughout the week as the days developed. It shows the strangeness of living in Bangalore when there is civil unrest in pockets of places around the city.

Tuesday

It is still unsettled in Bangalore but all quiet and calm in the complex. Shops are closed, there are no buses, Tuk Tuks etc on the road. Rez got to work quickly as a result.Area with Tamil Nadu residents have violence. Protesters burning stuff in Hebbal and police are in attendance.

We had a picnic in the garden and invited other expats and their children. Something to do to keep everyone occupied. 

Schools will remain closed tomorrow due to the ongoing violence in protest at the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu. Section 144, banning gatherings of more than 10 people*, remains in place. A curfew has been imposed. There were various outbreaks of violence in north Bangalore (where we live) but we were safe in the complex. Rez will be travelling to work with a colleague tomorrow (safety in numbers). Shops etc will remain closed and buses will not be running.

*the police were moving on anyone in groups of three or more.

Wednesday

Zahra has had a virtual classroom this morning and done all her schoolwork online. (Quite impressive if not for the technical glitches). Rez got to work ok with Matt. Our housekeeper arrived and said “it’s 75% normal” but “we don’t know when the fighting will start”. We were able to take Zahra out (with some other mums) for a swimming lesson. Also took the opportunity to stop off at the international supermarket on the way back to get some provisions in.

 We are playing everything by ear and listening for updates hourly. Tomorrow is supposed to be another general strike so it may all get tense again after dark.

An appeal for calm appeared on the front page of The Hindu newspaper.

front page of The Hindu newspaper

Thursday

 All appears ‘normal’ today (including the powercuts!). School and shops open as usual. The strike was called off (thankfully). The school reopened and there was even a parent workshop in the morning.

5pm and we find out the petrol stations are all closed for the next 3 days as they are on strike. Cue a massive queue for fuel! This turned out to be a false rumour in the end.

 We took the opportunity to go out for dinner in the evening with the other international assignees as it was Stuart’s birthday. It was nice to get out and spend some time with friends.

Friday

There a lots of newspaper articles and TV news items about the Cauvery river water as Tamil Nadu remains under a Bandh and curfew. Bangalore has returned to ‘normal’ in most respects. The school was able to continue with the Primary Football Tournament which was great for the children – they were able to run off all that pent up energy from being cooped up all week! We were also able to have friends over for dinner who were visiting from the UK. 

Forecast

The situation remains tense as Tamil Nadu still has a  Bandh and a curfew (reported in the newspaper) and any travels plans will be curtailed for any Karnataka state residents. The next court hearing is on Monday so depending on the outcome of that will probably determine the reactions of the citizens here and in Tamil Nadu.

I have been told that the police have monitoring social media for any false or misleading information on the situation and taking ‘appropriate action’. As my account is a first hand one I am unconcerned.

Strange days and water wars – Incredible India!

An average day

So today started as an average day but slightly different. Today is the Bakr-Id holiday so offices are closed and Rez was working from home. School was open though. This meant that Rez hadn’t set the alarm and I woke at 6:48am. Zahra was due to leave at 7am – we were running late. After a quick turnaround of dressing, breakfast and teeth brushing we were on our way by 7:15am. Manohar put his foot down and we made it to school by 7:30am. I returned home and did the usual chores whilst we had power and Rez was working in his office. We chatted to our driver about the schedule for the week and plans for the day. Nothing unusual.

Lunch out

Around 11am Matt came round (he lives in the same complex on the other side) to discuss work with Rez. Around 11:30am we headed out to pick up a new international assignee from Germany who had arrived in Bangalore the previous day and was staying in a hotel. We headed out to a local restaurant, pointing out shopping places and hints and tips about living in Bangalore along the way. 

Lunch was in a steak restaurant called Millers 46 hidden away on the third floor of, what looked like, an abandoned building. Whilst buying and consuming beef isn’t illegal in Bangalore, it is in other states in India and generally everyone takes care not to offend Hindus out of respect. The steaks were delicious. I was glad I was able to eat for a change. It’s been a while since I’ve joined a lunch / dinner and been able to eat properly. It was nice to feel almost ‘normal’ for a short while.

We headed out to Starbucks for an after lunch coffee, again pointing out to our new friend what to expect over the next few months.

The school run

We left Starbucks as we needed plenty of time for the school run. On the way I started picking up messages on various WhatsApp groups that violence had erupted around Bangalore. Spontaneous protests had broken out regarding the release of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu. Cars, vans, lorries and buses with Tamil Nadu plates were being attacked. This was supposedly in response to Karnataka registered cars being attacked in Tamil Nadu over the weekend. Pictures and messages started come in thick and fast. This was quickly followed by the school sending out a message to collect children immediately from school and the school would be completely closed by 3pm. 

Fortunately we arrived at school at 2:30pm to be greeted by children running to school buses and teachers frantically and yet calmly ensuring those being picked up by parents were all accounted for. It was strange. There was a sense of urgency yet teachers and children were rushing in a calm manner. We collected Zahra and got her into the car quickly. Buses were already leaving. I was updating worried parents on the situation at school. We called a friend to ensure her children were safely on their way (they were – on the school bus, as the car was too far away to reach them in time). More messages from scared and concerned parents responded to with updates saying calm but rushed at school. I had a brief chat with the Primary Principal and updated him on what I knew and we headed off. By the time we were on our way with Zahra all the school buses were in convoy on their way out of school. 

The journey home

We still had Matt and Marcel with us in the car as we had headed straight to school from the coffee. Helicopters were circling overhead. Cars were speeding past each other frantically overtaking in a rush to get home. At the junction of the main airport road we saw the first result of the protests – the Adyar Ananda Bhavan restaurant had been vandalised. All the windows had been smashed and there was a large police presence. The restaurant is a Tamil Nadu chain.

More pictures and messages were being sent from around Bangalore in the expat community groups. We were glad to be nearing the complex. I’ve never felt so releived to be going through security into the complex. We were back safe and without incident. We immediately sent our driver home so he could collect his children from school and get them home safely. He was very grateful.

News Updates

We turned on the news channels as soon as we returned home and watched the events as they unfolded around Bangalore. It wasn’t looking good at all. Unplanned violent protests breaking out at random points across the city. Some of them were in Yelahanka where we live.

Some of the school children had a long journey across the city and parents at various drop off points were providing updates to their parents as to where the buses had got to. We were all releived when all the children were back at their homes safely.

I updated friends and family advising them we were safe and continued watching the news reports. We called Marcel’s driver to collect him while it was still safe enough and headed over to Matt’s to ‘help’ him deal with the water leak in the kitchen. Again ‘normal’ in the abnormal. Marcel was collected and we headed back to our house to see what we had in for dinner (as previous dinner plan abandoned as shopping was required and that was definitely out). Messages and pictures came in throughout dinner. 

As we settled down to watch a movie I received a message from the school that it would be closed tomorrow “due to the continued protests regarding the Cauvery water crisis and violence across the city”. We were advised to remain indoors. News of other international schools closing started filtering through the expat WhatsApp groups. Rez’s workplace however will remain open tomorrow and he will have to travel into work, having been advised to take ‘adequate precautions’ as we are in a ‘sensitive area’. No helpful suggestions as to what those ‘adequate precautions’ might be though. (Two others are currently on a plane from the UK on their way to Bangalore, having been advised that it was safe to travel.)

Another Bandh (general strike) has been called for Thursday. 

What is the problem and why are there protests?

I’ve already written a blog post about the Bandh and the reasons for it – but why today? The matter of sharing the Cauvery river water is already in the Supreme Court, which is currently on holiday, so a ‘vacation bench’ heard the matter today and allowed some respite to Karnataka. Karnataka now has to release 12,000 cusecs* of water daily until 20th September. This is 3,000 less than the state was asked to share last week. However the water has to be shared over more days which means that Tamil Nadu will now get much more than the court originally ordered by the court. Karnataka asked the court to reconsider when it realised that it was not a relief or respite at all. The court refused and admonished the state by directing it to ensure compliance and to control protestors. Given the court directive it is unlikely the protests will dissipate anytime soon. 

What now?

We will be on heightened alert for any violence on the street. Zahra and I will obviously stay inside the secure complex tomorrow as advised. It is becoming difficult to keep a bored 10 year old entertained within a small complex but that’s nothing compared to those who do not have this security. I am more concerned about Rez, and others, having to travel when it’s potentially unsafe to do so. (There’s clearly no Health and Safety Executive in India for firms to worry about.)

It is disruptive. Shopping is impossible and deliveries will not be met. This means that if it is safe enough to venture out on Wednesday there will be a lot of people shopping and bulk buying – especially drinking water, as another Bandh has been called for Thursday and we will be confined to the complex again. 

Incredible India is indeed incredible, but not always in the way they hope for.

Update at 10:30pm

Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) of 1973 was imposed by the police. This empowers a magistrate to prohibit an assembly of more than ten people in an area. According to sections 141-149 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the maximum punishment for engaging in rioting is rigorous imprisonment for 3 years and/or fine.

The police have started firing on protesters resulting in 1 death and 1 injured.

20 buses with TN number plates have been set ablaze.

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*A Cusec is a measure of flow rate and is informal shorthand for “cubic feet per second” (28.317 litres per second). It is generally applied to water flow, particularly in rivers.