I’ll be the first to say Jai Maharashtra: KPCC leader Lakshmi’s statement lands her in trouble

Pro-Kannada activists called her a ‘backstabber’ for hurting people’s sentimments.
I’ll be the first to say Jai Maharashtra: KPCC leader Lakshmi’s statement lands her in trouble
I’ll be the first to say Jai Maharashtra: KPCC leader Lakshmi’s statement lands her in trouble
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Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee’s Women’s Wing President, Lakshmi Hebbalkar recent speech in Belagavi has outraged and angered pro-Kannada activists.

On Thursday morning, an audio clip of Lakshmi Hebbalkar speaking in Marathi was circulating in the media.

“If Belgaum (Belagavi) became a part of Maharashtra, I will be the first to say ‘Jai Maharashtra’. No one has the courage to make this statement. I have the courage. I am not afraid of anyone. I am answerable to god alone,” Lakshmi Hebbalkar is heard saying in the clip.

The Congress leader had made this statement during a public speech at Belagavi district’s Basarikatte village on August 27. Although the speech was made a few days ago, it caught the media’s attention only on Thursday.

As news of her statement went viral in the local media, pro-Kannada outfits began criticising Lakshmi Hebbalkar’s statement.

Reacting to the flak she received, Lakshmi Hebbalkar told media persons that she "is and will always remain loyal to Karnataka".

“When I made the statement, it was meant in a different context. All I wanted to say was that if the Supreme Court decides that Belagavi belongs to Maharashtra, then I would have no other option but accept the court’s judgement,” Hebbalkar told the media.

"A lot of youth in Belagavi are Marathi-speakers, especially in my constituency. The media is only publishing a part of my speech. I told the youth that just a month ago the Supreme Court had said that the case itself should have been filed when the states were being demarcated. I was telling them that if they give in to the separatist's cause, they will be the ones who end up going to prison. I said that I would be the first one to say Jai Maharashtra if the Supreme Court decides that Belagavi will be a part of Maharashtra. But I also said that since the case is still pending in the court, it would not be right to give in to separatist sentiments as we are still part of Karnataka," she added.

"Since the past 4-5 years, the separatists have been spreading a lot of anti-Karnataka sentiments in Belagavi. I was only trying to make them see that Belagavi is an integral part of Karnataka. When they are swayed by such strong sentiments, I felt that my speech must also be strong enough to make them see light. If my statement has hurt the sentiments of Kannadigas, I am truly sorry,” Hebbalkar said.

Angered by her statement, President of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike, T Narayanagowda called the Congress leader a “backstabber”.

“She is a backstabber. She has hurt the sentiments of Kannada speaking people. We have been fighting the cause since 1983. What does she know about the conflict between Karnataka and Maharashtra? Does she know what the people actually want. Besides, the matter is still pending in the Supreme Court. With these words, she has betrayed Karnataka and its people. She is living in this state and speaking against it. She should be ashamed of this,” Narayanagowda said.

When questioned about the Congress’ stand on the issue, KPCC President, Dr G Parameshwara said that he has no knowledge about the issue.

“I don’t know anything about the issue. We will speak with Lakshmi Hebbalkar and then be able to make a statement,” Parameshwara said.

In 1948, the then Belgaum Municipality had requested that the district, which has a predominant 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.

The issue has ever since been a bone of contention between the two states.

The Maharashtra government then lodged a protest with the Centre in September 1957, leading 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, said that 262 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and rejected Karnataka's claim over Belgaum, Karwar and 300 villages in Karwar, Supa and Haliyal taluks.

The Maharashtra government, shockingly rejected the Mahajan Commission report and said that all Marathi-speaking villages in Belagavi, Bidar and Gulbarga be made part of Maharashtra. It then demanded another review of the situation.

Karnataka has ever since continued to fight the Maharashtra government’s claims. However, the Mahajan Commission report was never formally implemented by the Centre.

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