Karnataka, Maharashtra arm-wrestle over border areas

Recently, a meeting of governors of Karnataka and Maharashtra was held, where the simmering interstate boundary dispute was discussed.

Published: 28th November 2022 07:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th November 2022 07:44 AM   |  A+A-

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Express News Service

The flare-up of the long-drawn boundary dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra has put both state governments headed by BJP on tenterhooks, in the run-up to assembly elections in Karnataka in early 2023. The boundary dispute case is slated for a hearing in the Supreme Court on November 30.

The Maharashtra government initiated legal recourse by filing a petition in the Supreme Court in 2004, demanding the merger of hundreds of villages and towns of Karnataka into Maharashtra. The neighbouring state resorting to pressure tactics is a provocation to the Karnataka government at a time when crucial polls are around the corner.

As fresh tensions escalated on the border after pro-Maharashtra groups vandalised Karnataka buses, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis stoked the fire, stating, “Not a single village/town from Maharashtra will go to Karnataka, and the Maharashtra government will fight strongly in the Supreme Court to claim Belagavi, Karwar, Nipani and other Maratha areas on the border.’’ 

Recently, a meeting of governors of Karnataka and Maharashtra was held, where the simmering interstate boundary dispute was discussed.

BEGINNING OF DISPUTE
The boundary row between the states erupted after the reorganisation of states in 1956, which resulted in the inclusion of Belagavi and its surrounding areas into Karnataka. Protests broke out across Maharashtra against the merger of Belagavi with Karnataka state.

When the boundary dispute continued to take a serious turn, former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi constituted the Meherchand Mahajan Commission in August 1966 at the behest of the Maharashtra government, in an attempt to resolve the vexed dispute. Although then Karnataka chief minister S Nijalingappa and Kannadigas opposed the commission, Indira Gandhi took him and then Maharashtra chief minister V P Nayak into confidence over the issue.

From August 1966 to September 1967, Meherchand Mahajan conducted an intensive study and survey of areas on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border, and came to the conclusion that 264 villages, towns and cities of Karnataka should go to Maharashtra, and 248 areas from Maharashtra should be merged with Karnataka. According to his report, Belagavi remained an integral part of Karnataka. He recommended the inclusion of Kasargod (Kerala) in Karnataka and gave Nipani and Nandagad to Maharashtra. He also recommended the inclusion of Solapur and Akkalkot into Karnataka.

The Maharashtra government rejected the Mahajan Commission report as it desperately wanted Belagavi to be merged with Maharashtra. The Gandhi government did not take the boundary issue seriously after Maharashtra leaders outright rejected the report.

The launch of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) by pro-Maharashtra forces in Belagavi, with the aim to “reunite Maharashtra’’ by merging Belagavi and other adjoining areas of Karnataka with Maharashtra, led to the victory of several MES-supported candidates in Khanapur, Nipani, Belagavi and surrounding assembly constituencies for several decades.

Noted Kannada leader, Ashok Chandargi, says pro-Maharashtra groups contended that Belagavi and its adjoining areas should be merged with Maharashtra as MES-supported candidates continued to win assembly elections from many constituencies, including Belagavi, Khanapur and Nipani.

However, political equations changed in Belagavi in 1999 when the pro-Maharashtra MES could not win even a single seat in the Belagavi region. Chandargi points out that the Maharashtra government and MES, should have stopped demanding Belagavi after it failed to win even a single seat.

In 2004, the Maharashtra government formed a committee headed by noted legal expert YV Chandrachud and decided to file a petition in the Supreme Court on the latter’s decision, demanding the merger of 865 villages, towns and cities of Karnataka into Maharashtra. Since then, both the Karnataka and Maharashtra governments have prepared documents to make their case stronger in the Supreme Court, but the case is yet to be heard.

The Karnataka government contends that boundary disputes do not come under the purview of court, and only Parliament has the right to take a call on issues related to state boundaries. Yet, Maharashtra is confident that the case will be admitted when it is taken up in the coming week. 

In Maharashtra, while leaders of the Shiv Sena, NCP, BJP and Congress are united in demanding Belagavi and its adjoining areas, leaders and noted intellectuals from Karnataka strongly feel the boundary dispute between the two states is a closed chapter. 

MAHA TAKES SERIOUS STAND
The Maharashtra government has taken several serious measures in the past few months to bolster its stand in court. In a recent meeting, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde named two cabinet ministers as in-charge of the boundary dispute, and decided to initiate all measures to fight the case strongly. Several leaders of Maharashtra, including DyCM Fadnavis, said the Maharashtra government will claim all cities and towns located on the border. In a series of tweets, he provoked the Karnataka government by stating that not a single village from Maharashtra will go to Karnataka. 

Two days ago, Shinde had softened his stand, saying the issue should be resolved by the states through talks. He said though a case was pending before the apex court, both states must work out measures to resolved the dispute amicably.

CM BOMMAI ON DISPUTE
Sending a strong message to the Maharashtra government, Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had announced in the state assembly in December 2021 that “Karnataka will not give up even an inch of its land. Suvarna Vidhana Soudha in Belagavi is another power centre of Karnataka and will remain in the state until the sun and moon exist”.

Reacting strongly to the tweets by Fadnavis, Bommai retaliated with his own volley. He said Fadnavis had issued provocative statements with regard to the boundary row and that his dreams will never come true. “The state government is committed to protect its land, water and boundaries. The question of Karnataka giving up even an inch of land does not arise. Our demand has been to include Solapur and Akkalkot, which are predominantly occupied by Kannadigas, with Karnataka. The Maharashtra government raked up the issue by moving the Supreme Court, but it will never achieve success in that. The Karnataka government is committed to strengthen its team to face the legal battle with Maharashtra firmly,’’ said Bommai.

He told reporters in Davangere on Saturday that the case filed by Maharashtra in the Supreme Court did not have any legal standing, and that Karnataka is prepared to face the case. “We will deal with the case firmly in the Supreme Court under the leadership of senior legal expert Mukul Rohtagi and Uday Holla. The geography of Karnataka will never change. I have convened an all-party meeting in this connection, with experts from different sections. An all-party meeting is also scheduled to be held in Belagavi shortly,’’ said Bommai.

REVENUE FACTOR
The merger of Khanapur and Nipani into Maharashtra, and of Solapur and Akkalkot into Karnataka, will eventually help Maharashtra commercially. Nipani produces tobacco in abundance, while Khanapur is rich in forest reserves, and will generate huge revenue for Maharashtra, sources said. As per the Mahajan Commission, Nipani and Khanapur are two commercially rich areas which will go to Maharashtra, besides hundreds of other villages and towns from Karnataka. On the other hand, Karnataka will not be able to benefit financially if it gets several areas of Maharashtra, including Solapur and Akkalkot.  

TWEET WAR 

Not even a single village from Maharashtra will go to Karnataka. The Maharashtra government will fight strongly in the Supreme Court to claim Belagavi, Karwar, Nipani and other Marathi areas on the border
Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra DyCM 

Fadnavis issued provocative statements with regard to the boundary dispute between both the states. Fadnavis’ dreams will never come true. The Karnataka state is committed to protecting its land water and borders
Basavaraj Bommai, Karnataka CM 

LATEST SPARK
The boundary dispute flared up following violence on the border in the past few days. Several buses from Karnataka were pelted with stones and Marathi slogans written on them near Miraj (Maharashtra). To avoid the situation from getting worse, Maharashtra banned the movement of about 300 of its buses to parts of Belagavi two days ago. Reacting strongly to the way the Maharashtra government is trying to rake up the dispute, CM Bommai hit out at the neighbouring government and decided to have an all-party meeting to make its stand stronger in court.



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