United by Love, Divided by a River: B’luru’s ‘Two-State’ Couples 

How Bengaluru’s Kannadiga-Tamil couples braved the protests on Monday when Tamil’s came in the line of fire.

Updated
India
4 min read
How B’luru’s Kannadiga- Tamil couples braved ‘Monday’, when Tamil’s came in the line of fire during protests (Photo: Hardeep Singh/<b>The Quint</b>)

A river that divided borders and carved landscapes to fill it up with human civilisation has now divided people.

Born and brought up in Chennai, Nandini Krishnamoorthy opted for Bengaluru to be her second home when she got married to Uday, a finance professional, die-hard Bangalorean and Kannadiga. She had heard about the dreadful anti-tamil violence of 1991, that erupted in Karnataka over the Cauvery issue, but she had never thought she would be threatened by it herself.

Identity politics is not specific to South, but it can really flare up sentiments here. If public interest was actually the top priority we would have seen the issue resolved by now. I am from Tamil Nadu, my Husband is from Karnataka and both our native states need water. I have a family here and a family in Tamil Nadu, the issues cannot be solved by eliminating each other.
Nandini Krishnamoorthy, Bengaluru


Tamil Nadu bound buses in flames after they were torched during a protest over Cauvery issue in Bengaluru (Photo: PTI)
Tamil Nadu bound buses in flames after they were torched during a protest over Cauvery issue in Bengaluru (Photo: PTI)

For 34 year old Dharmaraj Gopalkrishnan, who is Tamil by birth, Mumbaikar by virtue and now a ‘Kannadiga’ for the sheer love towards Bengaluru, the problem is much deeper.

Twenty years of my initial life that I spent in Mumbai, I faced trouble because I was an outsider, a ‘Madrasi’. I came to Bengaluru, fell in love, married a Kannadiga and now I face threat for being Tamil. What are we trying to do? Water is an equal need and I favour the state whose need is justified. And this ‘justification’ will not come from warring groups, it will come from courts and experts.
Dharmaraj Gopalkrishnan, Bengaluru

But what about the issue of loyalty and the question of supporting the state one belongs to? The so called ‘pro-Karnataka’ and ‘pro-Tamil’ organisations and the protestors have repeatedly demanded loyalty.

Of course I have to be loyal to the state. My wife now threatens me that if I fight with her she will inform protestors that I am a Tamil. I guess so will my sister, if I fight with her in Tamil Nadu. I have to learn the art of loyalty for sure!
Dharmaraj Gopalkrishnan, Bengaluru

The joke as it may seem, explains the situation of thousands of Kannadiga-Tamil couples across the states. The families that are united by love, but find themselves ‘divided’ by a river.

Their respite however comes from good Samaritans and Kannadigas, who did everything to save their Tamil friends and colleagues in the times of crisis.

A Tamil Nadu registered vehicle lies damaged on road in Bengaluru (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
A Tamil Nadu registered vehicle lies damaged on road in Bengaluru (Photo: The Quint)

By the time, 33-year-old Sripad Raj left office, while vandalism continued on roads, he knew worse was unfolding. Traffic was being diverted; he crossed a burning truck, but what worried him most was the thought of mobs entering residential apartments, since his area was one of the worst affected.

Our society has about 260 flats out of which at-least 20 percent are owned by Tamil. Knowing what happened in 1991, our immediate concern was to protect them. We immediately shifted all TN registered vehicles to basement parking, so that they are least accessible. We formed a Kannada speaking core group, it was supposed to lead the front in case mobs approach. Tamil families were asked to be indoors and we supplied them groceries etc. These families prepared food in bulk to feed society guards and security that worked double shifts.
Sripad Raj, Bengaluru 

Born and brought up in Mandya district of Karnataka, which is the heart of the conflict and distress, Shripad understands why the sensitive are so sensitive.

Everything in that area depends on the availability of water. No water means no crop, no power, no factories and thus no salaries. It is this that makes people restless. In Mandya the anger is towards government, but in Bengaluru it took an anti-Tamil twist, thanks to provocative videos and regional TV news.
Sripad Raj, Bengaluru 

There is not one but many instances when Kannadigas opened their homes to people stranded in offices and on roads. Specially in cases when they realised, travelling with a TN registered number plate was bound to invite trouble.

One of my colleagues’ brother was travelling from Coorg to Bengaluru. His car is a Tamil Nadu registered vehicle. Since my home town is Mandya, I asked him to get off road and stay at my place overnight. He left after things normalised. 
Sripad Raj, Bengaluru 

The emotion of love and care for humanity is beyond geographical boundaries and so are fundamental rights. Water is a need for everybody and with limited resources the solution can only be found collectively.

(A few names in the story have been changed to protect identities.)

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