In response to Karnataka urban development minister’s statement on restricting “Jai Maharashtra” slogan in Karnataka, the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti of Belgaum and Marathi Abhyas Kendra of Mumbai have threatened to intensify their ‘Second Samyukt Maharashtra Movement’.
Karnataka’s Urban Development Minister Roshan Baig last week allegedly said the state government was intending to bring in a new legislation to check “anti-Karnataka activities” by elected representatives. He also said elected representatives raising ‘Jai Maharashtra’ slogans in Karnataka will not be tolerated. This, however, prompted the Marathi-speaking groups to protest.
According to Maloji Ashtekar, general secretary of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti and former mayor of Belgaum, Marathi-speaking people demanding their rights is what the Karnataka government has termed as “anti-government”.
“Majority of people who get elected to local bodies in these regions are Marathi and do not understand Kannada. Hence, we had demanded official documents be given to us in Marathi. Though we are minority in the state, we are denied our rights and instead subjected to atrocities.”
Professor Deepak Pawar of Marathi Abhyas Kendra said, “Whatever Baig said was illogical. A state cannot enact a law of this sort, wherein it threatens someone’s freedom of speech. At one end where the case is still pending in the Supreme Court and the matter is sub-judice, how can a minister make such a statement.”
Following Baig’s statement, Shiv Sena and MNS activists across the state painted ‘Jai Maharashtra’ on buses plying from Maharashtra to Karnataka.
Maharashtra’s Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil last week wrote to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah over the alleged statement made by Baig. Calling Baig’s statement unconstitutional, Patil, in his letter, even warned of legal action against the government if any such action is taken.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti is seeking legal opinion on the matter. “We will continue to protest unless action is initiated against Baig for making such a statement. It was an attempt to influence the Kannadiga votebank by threatening the Marathi-speaking population,” said Ashtekar.
These groups have been fighting for the merger of 865 Marathi-speaking villages (currently with Karnataka) in Maharashtra. The areas include Belgaum, Karwar, Nipani, Supa, Halyal, Khanapur, Joida, Ramnagar, Aurad, Bhalki, Basavkalyan and Humnabad.
There are four cities and 865 villages on which Maharashtra has been staking claim for the past 60 years on linguistic grounds. The matter is pending in the Supreme Court.
According to Ashtekar and other Marathi leaders of ‘Second Samyukt Maharashtra’ movement, there are around 260 villages in Maharashtra which have Kannada-speaking population; however, they have never demanded for a merger with Karnataka. “The Maharashtra government in 1953 offered to give these villages to Karnataka, which was then known as Mysore,” said Ashtekar.
He added, “We wish to be a part of Maharashtra. The matter was once discussed at the Centre when Indira Gandhi was the PM. I think it has been over 52 years, our dispute has never been discussed at the central government-level. Even if a law is enacted by the government, we will not stop raising the slogan of ‘Jai Maharashtra’. Our struggle will continue and we will not intensify our movement further.”