The relationship between upper and lower riparian states, which depends on sharing of river waters, has historically remained unsatisfactory. So is the case with Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which has witnessed a strained relationship for over five decades on sharing of Cauvery river waters. But the Bengaluru-based Kannada-Tamil Harmony and Social Welfare Trust has been working towards building harmony between Kannadigas and Tamils living in Karnataka from the past many years.
The trust, led by its founder-president N. Ramachandran, has been instrumental in safeguarding the lives of Tamils in Karnataka during Cauvery riots and has been campaigning for an amicable solution to the Cauvery imbroglio. When Tamil Nadu-registered trucks were attacked in Karnataka, the trust helped the victims book FIRs at various police stations in Bengaluru to allow the victims to claim vehicle insurance amounts.
Mr Ramachandran said, "Kannada and Tamil are different branches of Dravidian languages. From time immemorial, Kannadigas and Tamils have been living in harmony in Karnataka. We may speak Tamil, but Karnataka is where we earn our living and it is our mother. Only some fringe elements, who only aim at selfish gains, are trying to create a divide among us." Recalling the horrific days of 1991 Cauvery riots which broke out against the interim award of the Cauvery River Water Tribunal, he said, "Properties of Tamils in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mandya, H.D. Kote, Nanjangud, Kollegal and Hunsur were burnt. Their livestock and vehicles were stolen and Tamils were made to run for their lives. We started fighting for the compensation of riot victims and strived hard to instil confidence among the people. After waiting for more than two decades, our fight for compensation yielded results with the state government in 2012 disbursing a relief amount of Rs 3.33 lakh among 24 victims whose properties were damaged."
He said, "Even during the death of Kannada matinee idol Dr Rajkumar, the truck terminal at Yeshwanthpur and other regions were burnt to ashes. We fought and got relief for the victims." In 2016, after violent protests by anti-social elements in Bengaluru, many trucks and cabs bearing Tamil Nadu registration numbers were attacked. "We got many calls from truckers that the police were refusing to register complaints. If complaints are not registered, the victims cannot claim vehicle insurance. Our trust, in association with the Bangalore Tamil Sangam and lorry associations, went around the city and state and helped victims file cases at various police stations, so that they could claim vehicle insurance amounts."
He said, "We were fighting for the harmony of all communities for over two decades, but we needed a platform and a banner. So, the trust was set up in 2011. Our main motto is violence is not solution to any problem. For every single issue arising between the two states, Tamils were being targeted and attacked. They were forced to live in fear. We have been demanding amicable solutions to all the problems between the two states, including the Cauvery issue."
He said, "We are working with pro-Kannada activists, politicians and the police department to improve the relationship. During anti-Hindi protests, Karnataka Rakshana Vedike president Narayana Gowda called our association to add strength to the protest. We together fought against imposition of Hindi. It was an example of the understanding we have. In 2009, when the trust was not registered formally, we were part of the coordination committee that worked towards improving the relationship between the two states and the result was the installation of poet Thiruvalluvar's statue at Ulsoor and poet Sarvajna's statue being installed in Chennai." On the future goals of the trust, Mr Ramachandran said that people of both states should maintain brotherhood and work towards the development of the nation....