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Tensions high ahead of Maharashtra ministers’ visit to parts of Belagavi

Kannada activists have demanded that the Karnataka government should not allow the delegation to visit Belagavi and should send a similar delegation to Kannada-speaking areas of Maharashtra.

The assault on a Kannada-speaking student on Wednesday evening has amplified tensions in Belagavi. (Videograb)

A visit by a delegation of Maharashtra ministers to Karnataka’s Belagavi district on Saturday is likely to become a flashpoint, heightening tensions between the Kannada and Marathi-speaking people in the border district.

Kannada activists have demanded that the Karnataka government should not allow the delegation to visit Belagavi and should send a similar delegation to Kannada-speaking areas of Maharashtra.

Tensions have been high in Belagavi recently with politicians in Karnataka and Maharashtra making controversial remarks related to villages bordering both states, igniting a decades-old border dispute.

The Maharashtra delegation will comprise Higher and Technical Education, Textile Industry and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Chandrakant Patil, Excise Minister Shamburaj Desai and MP Dhairyasheel Mane. There is also speculation that Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray will also visit the district.

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The delegation will visit Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Garden in Shahpur, followed by Martyr’s Memorial at Hindalga. They will meet leaders of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi and visit the families of some of those who were killed in police firing on June 1, 1986, during a protest opposing the decision to make Kannada a compulsory language in schools. They will also visit old Belagavi, Sulga, Uchgaon, Belgundi, Vijayanagar and Kangrali.

The news of the visit has prompted Kannada activists to lash out against the Karnataka government for allowing the delegation to visit parts of Belagavi, noting that it comes ahead of the winter session of the Karnataka legislature in the city.

Ashok Chandargi, president of Belagavi Zilla Kannada Sangatanegala Kriya Samithi, has written to Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to send a delegation of senior ministers from Karnataka to Kannada-speaking areas of Maharashtra. The delegation should visit Jatta, Ankalakota and other parts of South Kolhapur district, he urged.

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The assault on a Kannada-speaking student on Wednesday evening has amplified tensions in Belagavi. The city is no stranger to such incidents as differences between Kannada and Marathi language groups crop up ahead of the winter session of legislature at Suvarna Vidhana Soudha located on the outskirts of Belagavi. The winter session is scheduled from December 19.

The hearing of a petition filed by Maharashtra seeking the inclusion of 800-plus villages and towns from five districts of Karnataka to Maharashtra had also led to some disturbances in Belagavi over the past fortnight.

First published on: 01-12-2022 at 15:21 IST
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