The suicide of a protester, who jumped to his death from a dam in southern India, has turned the spotlight on a 100-year-old water-sharing dispute between the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The death on Wednesday of Karnataka farmer, G. Gurusawamy, 43, who was protesting against a Supreme Court decision to release water from the Cauvery river to Tamil Nadu, triggered large-scale violence, which forced Karnataka Chief Minister S. M. Krishna to immediately halt supplies to Tamil Nadu and convene an emergency cabinet meeting. Police were also put on high alert. Thousands of farmers and agricultural workers on Wednesday clashed with police and irrigation officials, blocked highways and attacked trains and buses to protest against the court order. Gurusawamy, and three other Karnataka farmers jumped into the Kabini dam to protest against the release of the waters. While Gurusawamy drowned, the others were saved after being swept down the Cauvery river. Some observers fear a repetition of 1991 when mob frenzy over water resulted in 25 deaths in the Karnataka capital, Bangalore, badly straining relations with Tamil Nadu. The river originates in Karnataka and flows through Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry. The main contenders are Karnataka, which claims it enjoys maximum rights over the Cauvery because it originates in its territory and Tamil Nadu, which cites agreements signed in 1924 and 1976 awarding it 13.7 billion cubic metres of water annually and only five billion cubic metres a year to Karnataka. Karnataka regards both agreements as unfair but Tamil Nadu insists they cannot be violated because its irrigation network and agricultural economy are wholly dependent on them. The dispute dates back to 1892 when the British ruled India. Since independence in 1947, successive prime ministers, including Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Cauvery River Authority and even Supreme Court judges have failed to find a lasting solution. On September 5, the Supreme Court passed an interim order instructing Karnataka to release a specified quantum of water daily from the Kabini and two other dams to Tamil Nadu until the final hearing on September 23. The order came as a blow to farmers' bodies in Karnataka who are demanding the scrapping of the 1924 and 1976 agreements. The conflict has been aggravated by sharp political differences. While the Congress Party is in power in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu is ruled by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam Party whose chief minister J. Jayalalitha is demanding the implementation of the court order. 'The issue has become intractable because politicians in both states have misused it to fan chauvinistic sentiments for electoral gains,' said Ramaswamy R. Iyer, a member of India's national commission for integrated water resource planning.