Karnataka-Maharashtra border row grows: 10 things to know

Latest controversy erupted when Karnataka Dy CM Laxman Savadi said that Mumbai should be included in Karnataka and made a UT till issue is resolved
Last Updated 01 April 2021, 10:25 IST

The Karnataka-Maharashtra border issue has been a simmering conflict that recently flared up again with both sides resorting to no-holds-barred attacks.

The latest controversy erupted when Karnataka Deputy CM Laxman Savadi said that Mumbai should be included in Karnataka and made a Union Territory till the issue is resolved.

Savadi’s statement was a response to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s remark that the Marathi-speaking areas along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border in Belgaum, Karwar, Nippani, Bidar should be declared as a Union Territory by the Centre till the Supreme Court rules on the issue.

In December last year, Thackeray had brought up the border row in the Maharashtra Assembly, referring to some areas of the state as "Karnataka-occupied Maharashtra" to which Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had said that the neighbouring state will not get "a single inch of land."

Here are the 10 things you need to know about the Karnataka-Maharashtra border row:

  1. The point of conflict can be traced back to the late 1940s when the Belagavi municipality in present-day Karnataka, which had a significant Marathi-speaking population, had put forth a request to be included in the then proposed state of Maharashtra. The district, along with Vijayapura, Dharwad and parts of Uttara Kannada, was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency. The States Reorganisation Act, 1956, however, ended up incorporating Belgaum and 10 talukas of the Bombay State into the Mysore State which was renamed 'Karnataka' in 1973. The reorganisation commission had added all areas with a Kannada-speaking population of more than 50% to the then Mysore state and accordingly, Belagavi and some other areas of Bombay were made part of Mysore.
  2. Politicians from the Bombay State (now Maharashtra) had approached the Centre over what they believed was flawed demarcation and aimed for the inclusion of Belagavi and other Marathi-speaking areas in the state. This led to the formation of the Mahajan Commission in 1966 under retired Chief Justice of India Mehr Chand Mahajan. In its report a year later, the commission recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra while Belagavi, Nippani and 247 villages were to remain in Karnataka. While Karnataka welcomed the report, Maharashtra rejected it.
  3. To date, Maharashtra claims 800-odd Marathi-speaking villages in Karnataka, including the ones in Belgaum, Karwar and Nippani. "We have to learn from past experiences and fight to win. The Karnataka-occupied Marathi-speaking areas will be included in Maharashtra," Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray recently asserted.
  4. Successive governments in Maharashtra have continued to lay claim to these areas, with the state approaching the Supreme Court in 2004 over the issue. The matter is pending before the apex court.
  5. Thackeray recently named ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as co-ordinators to oversee his government's efforts to expedite the case related to the boundary dispute with Karnataka.
  6. To cement the fact that Belagavi and the other regions are an integral part of Karnataka, the state government started the construction of the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, modelled on the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, in 2007. The building was inaugurated in 2012 and a legislature session is held there once a year.
  7. The latest volley of jibes started on January 17 after Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that his government is committed to incorporating into the state the areas of Karnataka where Marathi-speaking people are in majority
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    "Bringing Karnataka-occupied Marathi-speaking and cultural areas in Maharashtra will be the true tribute to those who accepted martyrdom in the boundary battle. We are united and committed towards it. Respects to the martyrs with this promise," the Maharashtra CMO tweeted on January 17. It was on the same day that Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, a regional organisation fighting for the merger of Belagavi and some other border areas with Maharashtra, observes as 'martyrs' day' for those who laid down their lives for the cause in 1956.
  2. This triggered a row between the political leaders of the two states with leaders from Karnataka calling Thackeray’s statement “sheer political one-upmanship” and referring to the Mahajan report by saying that Karnataka government will not go back from the report.
  3. Thackeray, in an apparent dig at his party’s former saffron ally, also added a political tinge to the conflict by saying that in the last five years (of BJP-led NDA government), the Centre was putting forward views (in the court) on behalf of the BJP-led Karnataka government.
  4. The Maharashtra CM is now upping the ante in the conflict with his government preparing for a decisive battle in the court as well as initiating legal consultation.
(Published 28 January 2021, 14:43 IST)

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