Maharashtra-Karnataka border tussle over Belagavi: All you need to know
The border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka has been pending before Supreme Court since 2004. The dispute between the two states has been going for more than 50 years, with leaders from both sides bringing up the issue to instigate each other.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday raked up the 50-year-old border dispute with neighbouring Karnataka.
Speaking at a Marathi book launch - 'Maharashtra Karnataka Simawad: Sangharsh Ani Sankalp (Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Dispute: Struggle and Resolve)' - the Chief Minister said that disputed areas of Maharashtra-Karnataka border should be declared as Union territory until the Supreme Court declares the final verdict on the case.
The border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka has been pending before Supreme Court since 2004. However, the dispute between the two states has been going for more than 50 years, with both sides bringing up the issue to instigate each other.
The Border Tussle
The border dispute between the two states started when Belagavi, earlier known as Belgaum, was handed over to the Mysore State according to the State Reorganisation Act of 1956. The district of Belagavi, bordering Maharashtra’s Kolhapur, was part of the Bombay Presidency before independence and has a sizeable Marathi speaking population. Finding Marathi dominated region in the neighbouring state, the Maharashtra government rebuffed the implementation of the State Reorganisation Act of 1956 and demanded a readjustment of the border with Karnataka in 1957. It invoked Section 21 (2) (b) of the Act and submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi-speaking areas being added to Karnataka. Maharashtra claimed that land of 2,806 square miles which had 814 villages and urban cities including Belagavi, Karwar, and Nipani.
Maharashtra has continued to demand the “Karnataka-occupied-areas” for so many years based on contiguity, relative linguistic majority, and wishes of the people. Along with Belagavi, Maharashtra also claims over Karwar and Supa where Konkani is spoken, citing Konkani as a dialect of Marathi. Maharashtra also points out the historical fact that the revenue records in these Marathi-speaking areas are also kept in Marathi.
Karnataka has been clear on its long-standing position that settlement of boundaries as per the States Reorganisation Act is the final decision. The state has argued that reopening border disputes, such as this, should not be permitted.
The Mahajan Committee Report
To diffuse the tussle between the two states, the Central government formed a four-member Mahajan committee in 1966. The committee had representatives from both sides. At a time when the committeè was formed, Maharashtra offered to transfer Kannada-speaking 260 villages with a population of about 3.25 lakh people in return for 814 villages and three urban settlements - Belagavi, Karwar, and Nipani. This proposal was immediately rejected by Karnataka. However, when the four-member Mahajan Committee came with its report in 1967, it recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka. Mahajan Committee’s report was rejected by Maharashtra which termed the recommendations as biased and illogical. But the state of Karnataka accepted the report’s recommendations and wanted this to be implemented. Meanwhile, the central government did not follow up on this issue.
Politics Over The Years
Even before Belgaum was incorporated into Karnataka, Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) was formed in 1948 for the sole purpose of opposing the merger. In 70 years since its formation, MES has been vocal about its demand of merging Belagavi, Bidar, and Karwar with Maharashtra. In the 1952 assembly election, MES won all the seats in the Belagavi region. Although MES influence has waned over the years, winning zero seats in the 2018 assembly polls, it still has a stronghold over the civic body election. In the last 22 years, Belagavi had just five “Kannada” mayors, the rest being from various Marathi groups.
In 1986, nine people lost their lives after large-scale violence erupted in Belagavi.
To extend its hold over the border city, Karnataka declared Belagavi its second capital and holds its winter session at Vidhan Soudha in the city.
Leaders from both states have raked the issue from time to time for political mileage.
In 2019, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had called for the merger of Belagavi, Karwar, and Nipani areas of Karnataka into Maharastra. He also said this was also a dream of Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray.
Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa in 2019 had said that not even an inch of the state's land will be given away.
At the core of the latest controversy is the remarks from Maharashtra Cheif Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Hitting back at the Chief Minister, Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi wants Mumbai to be made a part of Karnataka and requested the central government to declare it a Union Territory.