HUBBALLI: Ironical as it may seem, the call for separate statehood is coming from the very region from where the call for unification of Karnataka, including all Kannada-speaking areas, was given.
Though, the voices are not yet shrill and don’t seem to have wide support, it should serve as a wake-up call for the state government to address the issue before anymore damage is done. Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy’s recent remarks on voters of North Karnataka has infuriated locals and many organisations have called for a bandh on Thursday.
They have also accused the CM of neglecting the region in his recent budget and not giving adequate representation to leaders from the region in his ministry.
Those demanding statehood say North Karnataka is far underdeveloped than the souther parts despite having natural resources, more arable land and population. After the reorganisation of the state on linguistic basis, the focus of past governments has been on developing districts around Bengaluru. Over the years, a sense of alienation has built up among people in the northern region.
Even within the region, indices of development differ between Bombay-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka. Narrowing the gap between these two regions itself is a herculean task for any government, a senior BJP leader said adding that excepting this from the present JD(S)-Congress government is impossible.
The demand for statehood for North Karnataka is not new. While agitation for special status for Hyderabad-Karnataka region was at its zenith during early 2000s, former minister Vaijnath Patil, who spearheaded the struggle, gave the first call for a separate state then. The region also observed Karnataka Rajyotsava as ‘Black Day’ and hoisted a separate state flag. However, this move did not gain much traction, but the agitation continued.
A senior advocate in Hubballi said the agitation coincided with the demand for a High Court Bench in Dharwad and Kalaburagi. As the then government did not respond positively to the demand, voices for a separate North Karnataka state were again heard in the region and a separate flag was hoisted too. After prolonged struggle by the Bar association, supported by people from all walks of life, the government set up circuit benches which were later upgraded to full benches of the HC, he pointed out.
To look into regional imbalance and suggest measures to address it, a committee headed by noted economist Prof D M Nanjudappa was formed. “The committee suggested spending `2,000 crore each for eight years in row, totalling `16,000 crore. When the Congress-JD(S) combine (2004-06) did not show enough enthusiasm to implement the Nanjundappa Committee report, the demand for a separate state rose again,” recalled Somashekhar Kotambari, whose organisation has given a call for bandh on Thursday.
The bandh called by Uttara Karnataka Pratyeka Rajya Horata Samiti is gaining traction, but organisations in Hyderabad-Karnataka have snubbed it. Even those demanding implementation of the Kalasa-Banduri drinking water project, which will quench the thirst of 11 taluk in three districts, were of the view that the government has not paid enough attention to their struggle.