Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa waded into the row, asserting
The answer to his opinions were immediate in Karnataka, with the state Kannada and Culture Minister C.T. Ravi stating Thackeray’ought to be ashamed for making such statements only for political reasons’.
Groups that took to the streets were riled by it.
Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa waded into the row, asserting that’not an inch of Belagavi will be awarded to Maharashtra’.
Amid tit-for-tat protests in Maharashtra, the matter has further escalated with Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi Wednesday warning that the state government wouldn’t tolerate any trouble to Kannadigas in Maharashtra over the issue.
The row, however, is a five-decade-old one with either side raking it up intermittently to be able to instigate each other for political mileage.
The border issue
The central government constituted the Mahajan Committee in 1966 to assess the situation. In 1967, the committee recommended that 300 villages in Karwar, Haliyal and Suparna talukas of Karnataka be given to Maharashtra but abandoned Belagavi with the country. But Maharashtra objected to the report terming it’illogical and biased’.
In 2006, the then Congress-led UPA government submitted in the Supreme Court that the matter should be solved through mutual negotiation and that linguistic criterion shouldn’t be considered as it may create more practical problems. In 2007, Maharashtra once again moved the Supreme Court playing the ancestral element, claiming that Marathi speaking people in Karnataka were being’sidelined’ and’threatened’.
But Karnataka also has made attempts to reiterate its claim over Belagavi. The state government constructed an assembly building, the Suvarna Vidhan Soudha, in the city and now holds its winter session there each year.
On 14 October, 2014, then Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah renamed Belgaum as Belagavi along with 12 other cities, which was seen as an attempt by the state to cut Belagavi’s historic roots to Marathi culture.
The issue was fraught with political implications.
The platform then started contesting elections as a party and in its over 70-year history has focused on merging Belagavi, Karwar, Bidar and other Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka with Maharashtra.
Its influence, however, has waned through the years. In the 1952 and 1957 assembly elections, the MES won all the seats in Belagavi district.
Maratha leaders have fared better in civic body elections. Since 1999, Belagavi has had only five’Kannada’ Mayors, with the remainder being representatives of various Marathi groups.
With the issue vitiating the atmosphere again, both sides in Belagavi have dug their heels .
‘If Maharashtra wants to politicise the situation then let them withdraw the case they’ve filed in the SC.
‘Uddhav Thackeray should know better than anyone else that if they do this, it contributes to contempt of court,’ he added.
‘Marathi organisations don’t have much control in Belagavi. They have not won a single meeting election for the last two decades which clearly shows that their control is waning,’ Chandargi said.
Such has been the acrimony in the region that in November 2005, the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, a pro-Kannada organisation smeared black paint then mayor Vijay More’s face in the wake of the Belgaum City Corporation (BCC) passing a resolution to merge the district with Maharashtra.
Mayor More, once with the MES but now a full-time social worker, says the issue can be solved only if chief ministers of both countries discuss the matter and reach an amicable solution.
‘Just like the SC delivered a balanced verdict on the age-old Ayodhya issue and solved the dispute, in a similar way we should wait for the SC to pass a judgment on the border issue,’ More told ThePrint over telephone from Belagavi.