1991 Anti-Tamil violence of Karnataka
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 December 12–13, 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.
As of 2001, Tamil-speakers formed 5.46% of the total population of Karnataka. Tamil-speaking people are largely found in the districts of Bangalore Urban, Bangalore Rural, Ramanagaram, Mysore, Kolar, Hassan, Mandya and Chamarajanagar in southern Karnataka, Shimoga in central Karnataka and Bellary in northern Karnataka.
Tamil-speakers are, especially, found in large numbers in and around the city of Bangalore. Until 1991, Tamils formed the single largest ethnic group in Bangalore Urban district due to incorrect census measurements. The 1991 census, for the first time, recorded a Kannadiga majority ahead of Tamils in the district. 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. 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. 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.
On June 25, 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 December 11, 1991.
Cauvery is the mother of the Kannadigas, so we cannot give the water to anybody else.
The next day, Kannada chaluvalists allegedly roamed the streets of Bangalore carrying sticks, shouting slogans, beating up Tamil laborers.  Tamil businesses, movie theatres and even vehicles with Tamil Nadu license plates were targeted. Soon the riots spread to the Mysore district and other parts of southern Karnataka. Tamil-speaking villagers were driven out and their property confiscated. 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.
Analysts, meanwhile, consider the violence as a manifestation of the dislike of Tamilians by Kannadigas for the contemptuous attitude nurtured by Tamil migrants for the indigenous Kannada culture and traditions and the economic threat they posed. The award of the Cauvery Water tribunal is believed to have provided the final trigger.
One prominent member of the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly is recorded as having said of Tamil migrants-
They are aggressive, intolerant, they don't learn anything about Kannadiga history, culture or Kannada language, and they try to dominate us.
An extremely tense situation resulted along the border areas of Tamil Nadu due to reports of violence on Tamils coming in from Southern Karnataka. In the Gudalur area of Nilgiris district, farmhouses belonging to Kannadigas were attacked, forcing landowners to flee.
The Indian Peoples' Human Rights Tribunal puts the total property losses suffered in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at Rs. 17 crores while the Venkatesh Commission has given estimates varying from Rs. 3 crores to Rs. 15.5 crores.
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. Each family affected by the violence were provided a sum equivalent of $20 by the Governments.
There have been some minor incidents of violence in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
- Nair, p 259
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- Almost 5 million Tamils live outside Tamil Nadu, inside India
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- Nair, p 235
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