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Explained: What is the Mahajan Commission report on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute?

“I condemn Maharashtra DCM Ajit Pawar's statement, the whole world knows that the Mahajan Commission report is final. Marathi people here are like Kannadigas in our state. We have created a corporation here for the development of Marathas,” Yediyurappa said.

By: Explained Desk | Bengaluru |
Updated: November 19, 2020 7:44:18 am
Mahajan Commission report, maharashtra Karnataka border dispute, Ajit Pawar, b s Yediyurappa, Ajit Pawar vs bsy, indian expressMaharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Karnataka CM B S Yediyurappa. (File Photos)

Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on Wednesday condemned comments by Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar, earlier this week, over the border dispute between the two states as an attempt to “incite fire”.

“I condemn Maharashtra DCM Ajit Pawar’s statement, the whole world knows that the Mahajan Commission report is final. Marathi people here are like Kannadigas in our state. We have created a corporation here for the development of Marathas,” Yediyurappa said.

Pawar sparked a controversy on Tuesday, when he called the incorporation of Belgaum (Belagavi), Karwar and Nipani areas of Karnataka into Maharashtra a “dream” of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray, as he paid tributes to the leader on his eighth death anniversary.

The controversy comes weeks after the Maharashtra government asked all its ministers to wear black bands on November 1–celebrated in Karnataka as Rajyotsava or state Formation Day– to express support for Marathi-speaking people in the region.

Genesis of the dispute

The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad and Uttara-Kannada.

In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly 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 and 10 talukas of Bombay State a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973). 📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram

The Mahajan Commission report

While demarcating borders, the Reorganisation of States Commission sought to include talukas with a Kannada-speaking population of more than 50 per cent in Mysore. Opponents of the region’s inclusion in Mysore argued, and continue to argue, that Marathi-speakers outnumbered Kannadigas who lived there in 1956.

In September 1957, the Bombay government echoed their demand and lodged a protest with the Centre, 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 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra (which formed in 1960) and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka.

Maharashtra rejected the report, calling it biased and illogical, and demanded another review. Karnataka welcomed the report, and has ever since continued to press for implementation, although this has not been formally done by the Centre.

Later developments

Maharashtra continues to claim over 814 villages along the border, as well as Belgaum city, which are currently part of Karnataka. Successive governments in Maharashtra have demanded their inclusion within the state– a claim that Karnataka contests.

In 2004, the Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court for a settlement of the border dispute under Article 131(b) of the Constitution, demanding 814 villages from Karnataka on the basis of the theory of village being the unit of calculation, contiguity and enumerating linguistic population in each village. The case is pending in the apex court.

In December 2019, days after the formation of Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray appointed Ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as coordinators to oversee the state’s efforts to expedite the case related to the dispute.

Tensions escalated in the border region later that month, and bus services between Kolhapur and Belgaum were suspended after Kannada organisations staged a protest in Belgaum and burnt effigies of Thackeray, and Shiv Sena workers did the same in Kolhapur, burning effigies of Yediyurappa.

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