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Maharashtra-Karnataka Belgaum tension flares again: How did it start, where does it stand?

The dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belgaum and other border areas is a longstanding issue between the two states, and has been pending before the Supreme Court for many years.

By: Explained Desk , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: December 30, 2019 10:02:17 pm
Various Kannada organisations burnt the effigy of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray (right) in Belgaum on Sunday. Shiv Sena workers then hit the streets in Kolhapur and burnt effigies of Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.

On Sunday (December 29), bus services between Kolhapur and Belgaum were suspended after the decades-old border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka flared up again.

Various Kannada organisations had on Saturday staged a protest in Belgaum and burnt the effigy of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.

Shiv Sena workers had then hit the streets in Kolhapur on Sunday and burnt effigies of Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa. Maharashtra’s MSRTC and Karnataka’s NWKRTC have both suspended bus services in the sector since.

The dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belgaum and other border areas is a longstanding issue between the two states, and has been pending before the Supreme Court for many years.

Genesis of the dispute

The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Bijapur, Belgaum, Dharwar and Uttara-Kannada (previously North Kanara).

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 a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973).

The Maharashtra government contested the inclusion and lodged a protest with the Centre in September 1957. This led 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 and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka. Maharashtra rejected the report and demanded another review.

Current status

Maharashtra continues to claim over 865 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. Karnataka has contested these claims.

On December 8, Thackeray appointed Ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as coordinators to oversee his government’s efforts to expedite the case related to the dispute.

The Shiv Sena, which now shares power with the NCP and Congress, has for years demanded that these areas be included in Maharashtra.

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