news Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | July 29, 2014 | 4.39 pm IST The border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka has flared up again in Belgaum and there has been violence between Kannada and Marathi language groups, which has even spilled over onto bystanders. Clashes erupted over a signboard in Yellur village in Belgaum district after pro-Maharashtra supporters put up a sign saying that the area was in Maharashtra. Following a Karnataka High Court order, the district administration removed the board. However, the following day, it reappeared.  The dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra is around 50 years old now. After independence, certain areas in and around Belgaum which people spoke both Kannada and Marathi were included in the territory of Karnataka when the state was formed during the linguistic re-organization of states in 1956. Since then, the areas in and around Belgaum where both Marathi and Kannada speakers reside, has been claimed by both Maharashtra and Kannada. The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) was formed in 1948 to demand the merger of these areas with Maharashtra. And Kannada language groups have been claiming those areas for Karnataka. For a detailed understanding of the history of the dispute, read: Why two states want Belgaum , Two states, one district, and a 50-year-old dispute, and Belgaum Again. Every few years the dispute comes to the forefront. Over the years it has been alleged that the Karnataka government has neglected Marathi-speaking people.  In a bid to appear more considerate towards the Marathi-speaking people, the Karnataka government even built a Suvarna Soudha in Belgaum, and in 2006 for the first time an Assembly session was held away from Bangalore in Belgaum.  Whether such measures assuage the feelings of perceived neglect, or whether indeed there has been neglect on the part of the Karnataka government is a moot point that can be endlessly debated.  But the reality is that people do identify with languages and it becomes part of their identity. Over a period of around five decades, these identities have become more complex, making it difficult to thrash out a solution. It is the duty of governments to understand these sentiments and act to ensure that it carries out its duties as mandated by the Constitution, says Suhas Palshikar, . In an email interview with The News Minute, Palshikar explained the situation: “In case of every state, border areas are bound to bilingual and the issue becomes complicated. Division of Belgaum was at one stage contemplated but regional assertions in both states now make it difficult for governments to find a solution.” He also said that rather than look at discrimination, one needed to look at it “dispasstionatley” and examine policies of the Karnataka government for the bi-lingual region: “in terms of facilities allowed to the other language, permission to have schools teaching in that other language etc--these are necessities of federalism and the criticism is that Karnataka government does not respect many such practices in that disputed area. Unless there is a spirit of cooperation and accommodation, such issues cannot be solved. A good solution would be Maharashtra agrees to status quo and Karnataka agrees to give greater freedom to Marathi cultural interests--something like Belgaum becoming a joint territory of the two states.”

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