1991 Anti-Tamil violence of Karnataka

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The 1991 Anti-Tamil violence of Karnataka refers to incidents of mob violence targeting Tamils in the Karnataka state of India. The incidents took place in Southern Karnataka on 12–13 December 1991, mainly in the cities of Bangalore and Mysore. The attacks originated in the demonstrations organised against the orders of the Cauvery Water Tribunal appointed by the Government of India. The violence terrified the Tamil populace of Southern Karnataka forcing hundreds of thousands to flee in a matter of weeks. There were also reports of reprisals against Kannadiga landowners in the border districts of Tamil Nadu. The official statistics given by the Government of Karnataka was that eighteen people had been killed but individual sources give higher numbers.[1]


As of 2001, Tamil-speakers formed 3.82% of the total population of Karnataka.[2][3] Minority Tamil-speaking people are found in the districts of Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Ramanagara, Mysore, Kolar, Hassan, few in Mandya and Chamarajanagar in southern Karnataka, and few in Shimoga in central Karnataka

Tamil-speakers are, especially, found in large numbers in and around the city of Bangalore.[4] Tamil obedience to the British at the time of occupancy, was rewarded in the form of jobs in the multiple government organizations in Bangalore city. Until 1991, Tamils formed the single largest ethnic group in Bangalore Urban district. The 1991 census, for the first time, recorded a Kannadiga majority ahead of Tamils in the district.[4] While the Bangalore Cantonment area administered directly by the Government of British India prior to its integration with the then Mysore state, had a sizable Tamil-speaking population, they were also found in significantly large numbers in the "pētē" area of the city which was situated within Mysore proper.[5] The migrants occupied extremely diverse positions in the socioeconomic strata and represented every class, caste and community in Tamil Nadu. While there were also many who lived in abject poverty, since the early 19th century, the higher posts in the state administration had been mostly held by Tamil-speakers due to the preferential treatment by the British.[6] Gradually, this demographic and bureaucratic domination began to be resented by Kannada people who felt that the immigrant Tamils were snatching away their rightful jobs.[7]


On 25 June 1991, the Kaveri Water Tribunal, constituted in 1990, directed the Karnataka state government to release 205 billion ft³ (5.8 km³) of water to Tamil Nadu within a year. Karnataka issued an ordnance to annul the tribunal's award but this was struck down by the Supreme Court of India. The tribunal's award was subsequently gazetted by the Government of India on 11 December 1991.

The very next day, Kannada chaluvalist organisations led by Vatal Nagaraj called for a bandh on 13 December alleging partisan behaviour of the Government of India.[8][9] Their leaders declared

Cauvery is the mother of the Kannadigas, so we cannot give the water to anybody else.[9]

The next day, Kannada chaluvalists allegedly roamed the streets of Bangalore carrying sticks, shouting slogans, beating up Tamil laborers.[9] Tamil businesses, movie theatres and even vehicles with Tamil Nadu license plates were targeted.[8] Soon the riots spread to the Mysore district and other parts of southern Karnataka.[9] Tamil-speaking villagers were driven out and their property confiscated. A curfew of one week was declared under section 144. The arson and killing had a deep psychological effect in the minds of the victims that over two lakh immigrant Tamils moved out of the state within a month.[9][10] The violence left more than 18 ethnic Tamils dead.[8]

The Indian Peoples' Human Rights Tribunal puts the total property losses suffered in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at 170 million while the Venkatesh Commission has given estimates varying from 30 million to 155 million.[1]


The situation was soon brought under control and though, there were incidents of violence reported till the end of 1991, the situation had calmed down.[8]

There have been some minor incidents of violence in 1996, 2000,[11] 2004 and 2016.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Nair, p 259
  2. ^ A. R. Fatihi. "Urdu in Karnataka". Language in India, Volume 2: 2002-12-09. M. S. Thirumalai, Managing Editor, Language in India. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  3. ^ Almost 5 million Tamils live outside Tamil Nadu, inside India
  4. ^ a b D. V. Kumar (2006). Modernisation and ethnicity: locating the Telugu community in Bangalore. Mittal Publications. p. 16. ISBN 8183241077, ISBN 9788183241076. 
  5. ^ Vagale, Uday Kumar (2004). "8: Public domain—contested spaces and lack of imageability". Bangalore—future trends in public open space usage. Case study: Mahatma Gandhi Road, Bangalore (PDF) (Thesis). Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. p. 49. Retrieved 11 June 2012. 
  6. ^ Nair, pp 259 - 262
  7. ^ Nair, p 235
  8. ^ a b c d Sanjoy Hazarika (5 January 1992). "Tamils are target of riots in Southern India". The New York Times. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Dutta, Madhusree; Adarkar, Neera (1996). "Challenge of Communalism". The nation, the state, and Indian identity. Popular Prakashan. pp. 105–112. ISBN 8185604096, ISBN 9788185604091. 
  10. ^ Iqbal Ahmad Ansari (1997). Communal riots: the state and law in India. Institute of Objective Studies. p. 25. ISBN 8185220441, ISBN 9788185220444. 
  11. ^ Nair, pp 234 - 235