Wagah border in the south?

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Number plates at the Attibele border crossing

Ipsita K
NSoJ Bureau
Emotions run high at the Tamil Nadu side of the Attibele-Hosur border that demarcates Karnataka from Tamil Nadu. Inter-state transportation was terminated following the violence in Karnataka over the Cauvery dispute.

This is reminiscent of the situation at the national Wagah-Attari border where cross-country transportation is limited.

Security is beefed up in anticipation of further rioting. In addition to state police, Border Security Force (BSF) personnel (who have a strong presence at the international border between India and Pakistan too) are stationed at the frontier of the two states of a democratic nation. Police officials were not ready to issue a statement to NSoJ student journos on record, but the situation and the general attitude of the police seemed more relaxed on the Karnataka side of the border.

Mr. Krishnegowda, a traffic controller with the KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) assured NSoJ that even if there is news inciting mob violence, the situation will be completely under control, unlike last time. He added, “I wish the Karnataka government had water to share with Tamil Nadu, so that so many people wouldn’t be subject to such a nuisance but unfortunately they don’t. However, I wish Jayalalitha ma’am a speedy recovery.”

Following the pandemonium that Bengaluru witnessed on September 12 and 13 in forms of protests and violence, inter-state transportation which was at a standstill at the Attibele-Hosur border has just resumed. The standstill had led to large scale inconvenience among daily commuters who had to walk 800 meters to cross the border. The view at the border reminded one of the similar plight of Syrian refugees who walked all the way to enter Europe.

Travelling had become a menace, as Karnataka state government buses halted at Attibele and passengers were forced to cross the border on foot to reach the other side, and board a Tamil Nadu bus. This inconvenience affected people carrying luggage, the elderly and children who struggled to brave the sun and walk the extra mile. While pouches of water are being sold at Rs.2 a packet at the Karnataka side, it is available free of cost for people to quench their thirst at the other side of the border. No vehicles registered in TN (Tamil Nadu) were allowed to cross the border either.

Upon further investigation, one found fake stickers of number plates lying on the Tamil Nadu side. “Look what these people are doing,” a policeman said, pointing to the number plates. “They change their original TN plates to AP (Andhra Pradesh) and KL (Kerala) in order to cross the border. But it is illegal,” he said, before inquiring about the student journos. When they told him that they were from the other side of the border, he asked them to “go back to your own land”.

Shahid Lateef, a student who was travelling from Chennai to Bengaluru said, “After all, we are neighbouring states and not enemies like India and Pakistan. We need to help each other out.” Then why, one wonders, did the scene at Attibele resemble Wagah on the Indo-Pakistan border near Amritsar?

Anand, a shopkeeper who sells fresh fruit juice says, “There have been no instances of violence recently. It is only because of the police and the media that this border is being highlighted and hence, business is booming.” Many small scale entrepreneurs like Anand have taken advantage of the tension between the two states to earn a quick buck. Ever since the ban of inter-state transport, Harish has been working as a coolie, offering to carry people’s luggage over the border for a mere Rs.20.

According to recent developments, the Supreme Court has ordered Karnataka to release 2000 cusecs of water to Tamil Nadu from October 7 to October 18. Will it be enough to quench the thirst of thousands so that life returns to normal between the two neighbouring states? Or will the ground realities speak a different truth? As of now, the situation is under control at the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border even though subtle animosity is prevalent between people of the two states.

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