Two states,one district,and a 50-year-old dispute

The border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra has flared up again,with Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on Monday seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention...

Written by Sharika C | Published:January 20, 2009 4:24 pm

The border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra has flared up again,with Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa on Monday seeking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention to “guide” the neighbouring state to give up its claim on Belgaum and other Marathi-speaking areas on the border. The Shiv Sena has also got into the picture,attacking buses from Karnataka,and warning the BJP to “control its (Karnataka) Chief Minister”. It has said a party delegation would soon meet the President and Prime Minister to discuss the issue. An outline of the origins of the dispute and how it has played out over five decades:

History of the dispute

Located near the borders of Maharashtra and Goa,Belgaum became a part of the Bombay Presidency after Independence. In 1948,the Belgaum municipality requested that the district,having a predominant Marathi-speaking population,be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra State. However,the States Reorganisation Act of 1956,which divided states on linguistic and administrative lines,made Belgaum a part of the then Mysore State. The issue has ever since been a bone of contention between the two states.

The Maharashtra government contested the inclusion and lodged a protest with the Centre in September 1957,leading to the formation of the Mahajan Commission under former Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan in October 1966. The Commission,which submitted its report in August 1967,recommended that 262 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and rejected Karnataka’s claim over Belgaum,Karwar town and 300 villages in Karwar,Supa and Haliyal taluks.

Terming the Mahajan report as biased and illogical,Maharashtra rejected it and demanded another review of the situation. Though Karnataka has ever since continued to press for implementation of the Commission’s report,it was never formally implemented by the Centre.

Why it has resurfaced

In December 2005,the Congress-led government at the Centre decided to revive discussions on the border row,even as the states stuck to their guns. On March 15,2006,the Maharashtra Government filed a petition in the Supreme Court stating that there was a “feeling of insecurity among Marathi-speaking people living in Karnataka in recent days”. The Centre filed an affidavit in August the same year stating that Maharashtra’s claim was not maintainable in law,but withdrew it soon. Karnataka grew sceptical.

The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti

The MES was formed in 1948 and has been spearheading the agitation for about six decades to incorporate Belgaum and 865 adjoining villages in Maharashtra. According to the MES,43 per cent of the district population is Marathi. Wielding a significant presence in the region,the MES emerged as the majority party in the Belgaum City Council (BCC) in the 1980s and remained so until the dissolution of the council by the Karnataka Government in 2005. The MES cried foul,calling it discrimination against Marathi people,but the Government did not change its stand. The MES has been observing November 1,the Rajyotsava Day (Foundation Day) of Karnataka,as ‘Black Day’ and January 17 as “Martyrs’ Day” every year to commemorate the killing of five people from Belgaum in police firing while they were protesting against the decision to include the city in Karnataka.

Assembly session in Belgaum

In a move to assert its right over the city,and to quell criticism that Karnataka was neglecting the northern areas of the state,the state Government in September 2006 convened a five-day Assembly session in Belgaum. It was the first time the Assembly was meeting outside Bangalore. The Government also declared that Belgaum would be made the second capital of the state and that a mini-Vidhan Soudha would be built there,besides declaring that a joint legislative session would be held there annually.

Recent developments

On January 16,2009,the nine-day winter session of the Karnataka legislature began in Belgaum,amidst vociferous protests by the MES. The state police reportedly detained pro-Marathi activists who were planning to hold “Mahamelava” to protest against the holding of the session and also for stoning a bus and police jeep. The Shiv Sena has threatened to snap ties with the BJP if the Y S Yeddyurappa-led state government continues to remain passive about the “harassment” being meted out to the Marathi people of Karnataka and has alleged that the “Chief Minister is heaping grave atrocities” on them. Meanwhile,the Congress in Karnataka has accused the BJP-led state Government of helping the Shiv Sena gain a foothold in the state. On Monday,the Congress demanded that Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka be declared a Union Territory until the Supreme Court decides on the issue. It has also said the Assembly session in Belgaum is “is rubbing salt into the wounds of the Marathi people in Belgaum”. However,the Karnataka Chief Minister has denied the allegations and said that Kannadigas and Marathi-speaking people in the state are “living like brothers”.

For all the latest News Archive News, download Indian Express App

    Live Cricket Scores & Results