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Thursday, 31 August 2017

Save Kodagu, Save Kaveri


Save Kodagu, Save Kaveri

A double-event at Kutta, Kodagu and Town Hall Bangalore raises eye brows in environmental and political circles. The event was held to protest against the eco-destructive railway & highway projects set to enter Kodagu.

WHAT TRIGGERED THE PROTESTS?
A new railway line from Mysore to Kushalnagar has been proposed since long by the government. This is being considered for extension through Kodagu to Madikeri and further south into Kerala. The existing roads in Kodagu are also being considered for widening into highways. Ensuring more connectivity between Kerala and Karnataka via Kodagu would result in rampant cutting down of trees.

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?
Urbanisation is causing forests and coffee estates to be cleared and new residential layouts are coming up in Kodagu. Deforestation will cause the Kaveri, the lifeline of the people of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, to eventually dry up. It already dries up for two months in a year. The government policy on development projects will lead to drinking water problems in Bangalore. Local communities will be displaced. Illegal sand mining is one more serious issue in Kodagu, which is killing the rivers here. The Lakshmanateertha, which is just a few puddles in summer, is a sad example of this trend.

Environmentalists claim that Kodagu is the water tank of Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya and Tamil Nadu, and that every tree cut here robs some citizens of their fundamental right to water.

THE DOUBLE-PROTEST AT TWO LOCATIONS
On 26th August the “Save Kodagu, Save Kaveri” campaign took place. Many people gathered at Ponnampet and marched towards Kutta. They were led by Col. C. P. Muthanna the President of the Coorg Wildlife Society. Environmentalist Pattamada Sundar Muthanna had started an online petition to gather support for the cause. Until the day before the proposed meeting, some of the people were undecided about whether to attend it or not. However, a large crowd gathered in the morning at 10.00 on D-day.

A parallel protest was organised at the entrance of the Town Hall in Bangalore at 10.00 am on the same day. But not more than 50 people attended the Bangalore event. They were Kodavas and people from different environmental organisations. Arun Prasad was responsible for organizing the Bangalore event. The protesters held placards and passionately shouted slogans to save trees, Kodagu, the Western Ghats and the Kaveri.

Green activist Sundar Muthanna, golf coach Nikki Ponnappa, Kandrathanda Robin founder of Coorg Economic Council, Gummatira Kishoo Uthappa of Kodavaclan, Entrepreneur Codanda Devika Devaiah, Western Ghats activist Sahadev from Chikkamagaluru, youth leader Prathik Ponnanna and others were part of the event.

UNITED BY A DYING RIVER, BUT DIVIDED BY POLITICS
The small community of Kodagu is divided by politics. Its individuals are aligned according to their loyalty to the national parties, the BJP and the Congress, and likewise to the local organisations, the Codava National Council and the United Kodava Organisation. During the protest in Kodagu, a few people were upset when Manju Kokkalemada, the UKO head, spoke in favour of the Kasturirangan report. A road block was setup at T. Shettigeri village to stop the procession so that locals could air their opinions and fears.

The Kasturirangan report was intended to create a balance between economic activities and environmental conservation in the Western Ghats. It was meant to stop industrial and other commercial activities, such as sand mining, in the forest zones and not small farmers from pursuing their profession. According to the report, some buffer areas of 1 km width around forest areas in the Western Ghats have been tagged as Ecologically-Sensitive Zone. Unverified claims are being made that the people living in such buffer zones will be moved to other locations. Going by the stipulations of the Report, this is completely untrue. Since locals value their firearms as part and parcel of their martial culture, they are being told by vested interests that weapon ownership will not be permitted. It is the responsibility of the Govt to clarify such issues.

Some farmers, from remote villages such as Birunani, have only agriculture to depend upon and have never lived outside Kodagu. They want ‘development’ because this means better road access to them which would make their lives more bearable. To them, the implementation of the Kasturirangan Report means losing their farmlands and the sole profession they know. So they find the creation of a highway more favourable than the implementation of the report.

Because environmental protests held in 2014-15 to stop the high-tension power line to Kerala, could not stop the cutting of 50,000 plus trees, some people argue that protests will not stop the government or large companies from clearing forests. They believe that local politicians are involved in the timber business and in looting the forest wealth. It is the small landowners, several farmers who own a few acres of land each, who actually suffer eventually.

- Mookonda Poonacha 'Nitin' Kushalappa 

Saturday, 10 June 2017

REMEMBERING MAJ. MUTHANNA

By Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa
CoorgNews.in
MAY 31, 2017

Major Mangerira C. ‘Vinod’ Muthanna was an army officer who guarded India’s frontiers in the Kashmir valley against cross-border terrorists. He was born in 1964 in Chettimani village, near Bhagamandala town, Madikeri taluk in Kodagu. Joining the Officer’s Training Academy in Chennai in 1984, he was commissioned into the army the following year. He first served in Jammu and Kashmir (1985-1991), then in Punjab (1991-1993), next in Arunachal Pradesh (1993-1996), later in Bangalore (1997-1999) and finally again in Jammu and Kashmir (1999-2000).
 Mangerira Muthanna statueDuring his 15 years’ tenure he rose from the position of a Second Lieutenant to that of a Major. He was part of the 5th Sikh Light Infantry unit,  Rashtriya Rifles. In the year 2000, Major Muthanna was posted at Khanabal in Anantnag district, Jammu and Kashmir. This remote army base was however near Srinagar and along the main National Highway of Kashmir. Under constant attack from terrorists, it was the army’s responsibility to guard the civilians and the infrastructure around the camp.
On an eventful day, the 12th of January that year, four Lashkar-e-Toiba militants arrived in a Maruthi Omni van, at around 6 in the evening. Armed with AK47s, grenades and rocket launchers, they forced themselves into the barracks and began to fire indiscriminately. But the Jawans returned fire and stopped the moving vehicle. One militant was promptly shot dead and another was wounded by the soldiers. However, the remaining two escaped unseen into a small, two-storey building nearby.
Major Muthanna informed his Commanding Officer about the situation. The attack had stopped for a while but the militants’ location within the camp was unknown. Upon the CO’s instructions the Major had the area sealed and searched. The militants were discovered in that building, which was across the road. It had only one entry-point and a stairway. Two jawans then entered the building in order to capture the militants. But they were shot at and cornered.
At that moment Major Muthanna decided to risk his life in order to save his men. He quickly entered the building after them. While he provided cover to the two injured jawans, they were taken away to safety. In the meantime he managed to shoot dead one of the two militants. But in the process he was fatally wounded himself. He sustained a bullet wound on his right side below the hips. A grenade hurled at him had exploded in his face, again on the right, and badly injured him. Seven hours had flown by since the militants’ arrival. The time was 1.30 in the midnight. The Major had lost consciousness by then.
The two Jawans who were undergoing treatment had informed the others that Major Muthanna was fine when they parted. The Army had fired upon the building in order to save the Major trapped within. The remaining militant pretended to surrender and was to be taken away. Before he was to be disarmed an interrogation took place. It was then that he began to fire again at the soldiers from inside the building. The soldiers shot back at him. He was killed but not before he removed the pin of a grenade and held on to it while dying. His intention was to blow up anybody who would lift his corpse.
The building was taken by the army at 3.30, in the wee hours of the morning. Meanwhile the Major, aged 36, succumbed to his injuries. His corpse was found inside the structure. The alert soldiers became aware of the unexploded grenade. They were able to prevent any further damage to themselves from the probable explosion. The terrorist’s final plan was hence thwarted.
Lives of civilians and soldiers were saved by Major Muthanna’s courageous deed. He was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously. This military decoration, an equivalent of the Vir Chakra, was for his bravery and self-sacrifice, beyond the call of duty, during an enemy attack in times of peace.
Major M. C. Muthanna Marg (road), Major M. C. Muthanna Army Goodwill High School / Public School and a recreation hall named after him, all three in Khanabal in Jammu and Kashmir, were inaugurated by the Indian Army. Manjunath Acharya of Somwarpet made the sculpture of him which was unveiled near the Town Hall at Madikeri in 2010.