Cauvery protests: 'Targeting the IPL is irrational'

Last Updated: Thu, Apr 12, 2018 11:07 hrs
Protestors shout slogans after being detained by policemen outside the MA Chidambaram stadium where the IPL VIVO cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders was held.

Anger over the Cauvery water issue has increased over the past week. Ever since February 16, when the Supreme Court ruled that the Centre should frame a water sharing scheme of the Cauvery between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there has been little to no progress on it.

The centre, on the eve of the March 29 deadline, moved the court for a further three months to frame the scheme. The Supreme Court was not pleased with the centre dragging its feet on the issue; the Chief Justice said in part, “We have delivered the judgment after much study and difficulty... yet you did not show the resolve to frame the scheme”.

In an interview to the Times of India, Mannargudi S Ranganathan, general secretary of Cauvery Delta Farmers Association criticized the centre’s move to ask for three more months to form the board –

“The final award of the tribunal of 2007 has the essence of the mechanism to distribute water. It clearly states that the mechanism is Cauvery Management Board (CMB). From the beginning, not a single solution given for management of Cauvery has been accepted by Karnataka”.

The court, while hearing a petition filed by Tamil Nadu against the Centre, sensed the anger and impatience among the states and urged the states to maintain peace and order and be willing to co-operate. However, these calls for restraint were in vain.

Cricket as a sport itself has politics in it, but that doesn’t mitigate the fact that outside electoral politics can affect its functioning. Various fringe groups and some political parties urged the cancellation of all IPL matches that were to take place in the city. Their demands were clear – no matches until a Cauvery Management board were set up. One such group, a pro-Tamil outfit called Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi (TVK) warned of picketing the stadium.

Politicians, both from the ruling as well as opposition parties, have been at the forefront of these protests. The Prime Minister’s visit to the city comes amid heightened tension in the state. The opposition, DMK, has asked people of the state to wear black shirts and sarees during the prime minister’s visit.

Two high profile names that have recently entered into the arena of politics – Kamal Haasan and Rajnikanth have been vocal on the issue. The latter has come out in support of suspending IPL matches in the city until the board was established. He stated that it would be embarrassing if a large scale public event was taking place while the state was protesting on an important issue. The BCCI on Wednesday decided to move all IPL matches out of Chennai due to security concerns. Some protestors turned violent against the police which Rajnikanth condemned.

As a local news source Dinamalar reported, RJ Balaji, a well know activist, RJ and actor also joined the boycott stating his refusal to participate in any IPL media activity. Several other actors also joined the protest demanding the formation of the management board.

The BJP is obviously hesitant in forming the management board now given that Karnataka goes to the polls in a month and any decision could affect their prospects in the crucial state elections. In the choice of framing a scheme which is its duty as said by the Supreme Court and the electoral map, the party has chosen the latter. The Hindu editorial points out the protestors got what they wanted in Chennai –

“Unfortunately, a fringe has taken centre stage, focussing almost their entire protest on the Indian Premier League tournament. As a political tactic, threatening a hugely popular cricket tournament is bound to attract national attention”.

“However, targeting the IPL is irrational. If the premise is that fun and entertainment are inappropriate in this time of crisis, why pick on one tournament alone? IPL matches have nothing to do with the Cauvery dispute; more importantly, they have nothing to with either the Centre or the State”.

As Maalaimalar reports, two black flags were placed at the entrance gate of DMK leader Karunanidhi’s home in Chennai, while his son stated his disappointment in the centre not setting up the Cauvery management board. Police arrested MLA’s in front of Chennai airport.

The battle lines have essentially been drawn here. Its one issue that all parties in the state more or less agree on and they’re putting up a united front against the BJP. The other state involved in this, Karnataka has its own woes to deal with. Politicians there have echoed the sentiments expressed by the Centre, fearing they will lose control over the river. The struggle, in Tamil Nadu, continues.

More columns by Varun Sukumar