Make Belagavi part of Maharashra: Protests erupt in district on Karnataka Rajyotsava

The Maharashtra Ekikarna Samiti, which forms a majority in the Belagavi Municipal Council, observed a 'black day' on November 1.
Make Belagavi part of Maharashra: Protests erupt in district on Karnataka Rajyotsava
Make Belagavi part of Maharashra: Protests erupt in district on Karnataka Rajyotsava
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Parallel to the Kannada Rajyotsava celebrations, several groups, including pro-Tulu groups, across north Karnataka observed November 1 as a 'black day'.

The protesters demanded that the Central government take cognizance of their demand to make Belagavi a part of Maharshtra.

Among those observing the 'black day' was Maharashtra Ekikarna Samiti (MES), which forms a majority in the Belagavi Municipal Council (BMC). Hundreds of residents led by Belagavi Mayor Sanjyot Bandekar and MLA Shambaji Patil held a rally from Dharmavir Shambaji Grounds till Maratha Mandir, where a public meeting was organised.

The MES-dominated BMC has demanded for the transfer of Belagavi to Maharashtra on at least three occasions in the past, i.e. 1990, 1996 and 2001. And since 2001, the Kannada Rajyotsava has been observed as 'black day' in Belagavi.

"The area is dominated by Marathi-speaking people and we do not identify ourselves as Kannadigas. Why should we celebrate Rajyotsava? We have every right to protest peacefully. We have been fighting for this cause for decades," said MLA Shambaji Patil.

Early on Wednesday morning, pro-Kannada groups gathered outside the BMC shouting slogans against the BMC and they hoisted the state flag. Soon after, the Belagavi Police arrived at the spot and held talks with the activists to bring the flag down. The activists threatened to commit suicide if the Karnataka flag was brought down. The police then detained over 30 members and brought the flag down.

Meanwhile, in Gulbarga district's Kalburgi area, local separatist groups protested near the Sardar Vallabhai Patel Circle, demanding a separate Kalburgi state.

Activists of the Karnataka Pratyaksha Rashtra Horata Samiti held separatist flags and demanded the formation of a separate state. When the local police tried to detain them, the activists ran away.

In a separate incident, activists of the Hyderabad-Karnataka Pratyaksha Horata Samiti held a protest at the Sardar Vallabhai Patel circle demanding a separate state including districts of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. Kalburgi Police arrived at the spot and detained over 15 activists.

What is the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka all about?

The erstwhile state of Mysore was joined with parts of Bombay (Mumbai), Hyderabad, Madras (now Chennai) and Coorg to form Karnataka five decades ago under the States Reorganisation Act, 1956. At the time, certain Marathi-speaking areas were also merged with Karnataka, which became a cause of dispute between the two states.

In 1957, the then government of Bombay requested the former zonal council to recommend a demarcation of the boundaries. However, this was not formally considered.

Attempts to reach an amicable solution failed and the Government of India had to step in. However, the issue was put on the back-burner till 1966, when Senapati Bapat, a freedom fighter, along with leaders from Maharashtra, lodged a hunger strike demanding the resolution of the dispute. 

In October 1966, the government of India appointed Chief Justice, Mehr Chand Mahajan, to make recommendations to solve the dispute.

The Mahajan Commission had recommended the exchange of several villages in the then Belgaum district between the two states, but rejected Maharashtra's claim on Belgaum city.

Maharashtra had asked for 814 villages in Belgaum, Karwar, Bidar and Gulbarga districts besides Belgaum city. Mysore State had claimed 516 villages, of which Maharashtra admitted that 260 were Kannada-speaking ones. It was awarded 247 villages including claim to Solapur.

In 2007, Maharashtra state took up the issue in the Supreme Court. The case is still being heard and the dispute has not yet been resolved.

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