Kagwad, a town in Karnataka located next to the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, witnessed a showdown between the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike and the Shiv Sena on Saturday afternoon.
In Kagwad which is located in Belagavi district, members of the pro-Kannada organization burnt the effigy of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. In Vaishala, a village adjacent to Kagwad, but located in Maharashtra, too witnessed protests as Shiv Sena activists burnt the red and yellow flag, which symbolizes the pro-Kannada movement, and shouted slogans against Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa.
The recent protests mark a fresh round in the long-standing feud between pro-Kannada activists and members of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which is an organisation based in Maharashtra that is pushing for Belagavi, which has a lot of Marathi speaking population, to become a part of Maharashtra. Pro-Kannada activists have vehemently opposed this stance.
The events that led to the showdown
A fresh controversy erupted on December 17, when Union Minister of Railways and MP from Belagavi, Suresh Angadi, said that anti-CAA and NRC protesters, who vandalise railway property must be ‘shot at sight’.
“Stringent action will be taken against those who damage railway property,” Suresh Angadi had said. When asked what “stringent action” means, Suresh Angadi had said, “It means to shoot at sight”.
Angered by Suresh Angadi’s statement, Karnataka Navanirmana Sena’s state President Bhimashankar Patil had on December 26 questioned why Suresh Angadi had remained silent when members of the MES had destroyed public property in Karnataka over the Belagavi dispute.
“Suresh Angadi won elections because he favours pro-Maharashtrians. He stood by them when they protested for not allowing them to hoist the saffron flag outside the Belagavi City Corporation. He did not say anything when they torched government offices, mixed poison in the Rakaskopp dam, but now he is talking about gunning down people who damage public property,” Bhimashankar Patil had said.
In response, members of Shiv Sena held massive protests in several towns bordering Karnataka and had shouted slogans against Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa. The state transport services between Karnataka and Maharashtra was stopped on Friday and Saturday. Bus services were resumed only on Sunday evening.
On Sunday afternoon, members of the Shiv Sena began to blacken the name boards of restaurants and commercial establishments, that were written in Kannada, in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur, which borders Belagavi in Karnataka. The situation turned worse when Shiv Sena activists barged into Apsara Theatre in Kolhapur and stopped the screening of Kannada film Avane Srimannarayana, starring Rakshith Shetty.
The first show of the film had already begun when Shiv Sena activists forced the theatre managers to stop the screening. A hoarding of the movie was brought down and the theatre was locked down.
Angered by this, the members of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike decided to hold protests in Kagwad. KRV activists shouted slogans against Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and burnt his effigy. They also shouted slogans against Shiv Sena and MES, stating that they were trying to divide Karnataka and its people.
In response, Shiv Sena activists held protests in Vaishala village, which is located in Maharashtra’s border adjacent to Kagwad. They burnt the red and yellow flag and shouted slogans against CM BS Yediyurappa. The protests went on for two hours after which police intervened and asked them to disperse.
“Shiv Sena has burnt the flag symbolizing Kannada language. They have been creating an atmosphere of fear in Belagavi. If they continue this, we will intensify our protest,” said KRV’s Kagwad President Chetan Patil.