To mark 60th anniversary of the beginning of first ‘Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan’ in Belgaum, a Mumbai University professor, educationists and politicians under the banner of ‘Seema Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti’ will organise a public gathering at Hutatma Chowk Sunday. The gathering is organised to honour all those who died during the first ‘Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan’ on January 17, 1956.
Amid renewed aggression over this 60-year-old Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, the group that has been fighting for the merger of four disputed Karnataka districts with Maharashtra, has now intensified their protest by calling their movement the “Second Samyukta Maharashtra Andolan”.
Actor Amol Kolhe, Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant, advocate Madhavrao Chavan, Communist leader Prakash Reddy are expected to attend the gathering.
“Between 1995 and 1999, the Sena-BJP government failed to merge Belgaum with the state despite having BJP government at the Centre. With the second movement, we want both governments to look into the injustice meted out to lakhs of Marathis in Belgaum,” said Dr Deepak Pawar, an assistant professor at the Department of politics in Mumbai University and head of the Marathi Abhyas Kendra, a centre that is now the face of the campaign.
The “cause” now has seen participation from several pockets in Mumbai, with Pawar-led groups reaching out to residents of disputed areas to strengthen their argument.
The activists, meanwhile, claim that it is the people of these four districts who want these districts to merge with Maharashtra, considering the dominance of Marathi-speaking people in these areas. The activists are now meeting residents of these areas, youth organisations, academicians, students and even politicians to strengthen their support in order to pressurise the government seeking merger with Maharashtra.
Last year, these groups conducted a two- week-long study tour and campaign on the issue of inclusion of 865 Marathi-speaking “Between 1995-99, the Sena-BJP government failed to merge Belgaum with the state despite having BJP government at Centre. With the second movement, we want both governments to look into the injustice meted out to lakhs of Marathis in Belgaum,” said Dr Deepak Pawar, an assistant professor at the department of politics at Mumbai university and head of the Marathi Abhyas Kendra, a centre that is now the face of the campaign.
Pawar said, “Last year, during the study tour, we visited places such as Belgaum, Karwar, Nipani, Supa, Halyal, Khanapur, Joida, Ramnagar, Aurad, Bhalki, Basavkalyan and Humnabad. Even though majority speaks Marathi in these areas, Marathi schools have been shut down by the Karnataka government. We met people, members of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti and leaders of various political parties in that area.” The activists say while the four districts should be part of the Maharashtra, considering the dominance of Marathi-speaking population, the districts were included in Karnataka under the States Reorganisation Act of 1956. There are four cities and 865 villages in these four districts to which Maharashtra has been staking claim on for the past 60 years on linguistic grounds.
“These areas have dominance of Marathi-speaking people, and they want to merge with Maharashtra. This struggle has been going on for the last 58 years and Maharashtra has challenged the States Reorganisation Act,” said Madhavrao Chavan, one of the eight advocates who is representing the state in SC.
Pawar said, “The gathering is a tribute to martyrs like Pehalwan Maruti Bennalkar, Madhu Bapu Bandekar, Mahadev Baarigadi and Laxman Gawde who died on January 17, 1956. However, hardly the youth of Maharashtra remember these people who laid their life for the cause.”