Security has been stepped up after two incidents where statues of Shivaji and Sangolli Rayanna were desecrated as the Belagavi border dispute re-emerged.

People carrying the Karnataka flag, surrounding the white car of a minister in protestTwitter: Deepak Bopanna
news Belagavi row Monday, December 20, 2021 - 12:32

Amid growing tensions between Kannada and Marathi organisations after the desecration of statues of Shivaji and Sangolli Rayanna in separate incidents, a group of Kannada activists gheraod the car of BJP MLA Hartalu Halappa and Karnataka Council chairman Basavaraj Horatti in Karnataka’s Belagavi. In a video of the incident that has surfaced, the activists are seen raising slogans against the government, alleging apathy towards them, and are seen surrounding the car in which the two were travelling in. Basavaraj Horatti was also seen attempting to exit the vehicle amid the crowd.

The situation in Belagavi remained tense after the statue of Sangolli Rayanna, a Kannada freedom fighter, was defaced in the city on Saturday, December 18. The incident occured after a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji was vandalised late on Thursday. The series of incidents was sparked after supporters of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) allegedly burnt a Karnataka flag after a war of words between the MES and Kannada organisations in Belagavi. The MES has been fighting for a merger of 800-odd villages in Karnataka with Maharashtra.

Meanwhile, security across Belagavi has been tightened in the wake of Kannada organisations announcing to lay siege to the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha on Monday, December 20, despite prohibitory orders. As many as 3,000 police personnel have been deputed to maintain the law and order situation.

Thousands of Kannada activists are arriving at Belagavi to stage a protest against the state government's apathy towards protecting the interests of Kannadigas, President of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike Narayana Gowda said. "No matter what, we are going ahead with our plan of laying siege to Suvarna Soudha," he added.

"The government has not taken any action against the MES members who attacked the police but now, it is initiating action against us for condemning atrocities on Kannadigas," he alleged.

Belagavi Police Commissioner K Tyagarajan said that the police will not allow activists into the city as prohibitory orders are clamped. The Karnataka police had put Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in Belagavi until December 20. However, in light of growing tension, the curfew has been extended to December 22, the police said. "In wake of protests after the desecration of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj & Sangolli Rayanna statues on Saturday night, a prohibitory order has been extended under Sec 144 CrPC from 6 am on Dec 20 to 6 am on Dec 22 in Belagavi," Police Commissioner Dr K Thiyagarajan said.

“MES workers are miscreants who do not fear law. They need to be tamed,” he said. The series of incidents in the last week have created tension in the city. The Karnataka and Maharashtra governments have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure safety of their people in their respective states.

The Belagavi border row is not a new one, and emerges every few years. Read more about it here: Belagavi dispute explained: Why Karnataka and Maharashtra are fighting over one district

(With IANS inputs)

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