Committed to bringing Marathi areas into Maharashtra: Uddhav
Bringing Karnataka-occupied Marathi-speaking areas in Maharashtra will be true tribute to martyrs, says CMO
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday said his government was committed towards incorporating into those areas of Karnataka where the Marathi-speaking populace were in the majority. A tweet issued by the Chief Minister’s Office said this would be a “true tribute” to the martyrs who strove for the incorporation of Belagavi and other Marathi-speaking areas into Maharashtra.
“Bringing Karnataka-occupied Marathi-speaking and cultural areas in Maharashtra will be the true tribute to those who accepted martyrdom in the boundary battle. We are united and committed towards it. Respects to the martyrs with this promise,” the CMO tweeted.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, too, endorsed the Chief Minister by stating that the current government would keep on striving until the merger was accomplished and the dream of a ‘Sanyukt Maharashtra’ was realised.
The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, a regional organisation fighting for the merger of Belagavi and other border areas with Maharashtra, observes January 17 as a ‘Martyrs’ Day’ in memory of those who laid down their lives for the cause in 1956.
In 2019, Mr. Thackeray had referred to Belagavi and its nearby areas where people chiefly speak Marathi as ‘Karnataka occupied Maharashtra’, drawing the ire of Kannada politicians.
Mr. Thackeray had also appointed Ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as ‘co-ordinators’ to oversee his government’s efforts to expedite the boundary dispute, which has been festering for more than 60 years.
Pending in SC
Maharashtra claims certain areas, including Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani which are part of Karnataka, contending that the majority of population in these areas is Marathi-speaking. The dispute has been long-pending in the Supreme Court.
While Belgaum (as Belagavi was known till recently) was formerly part of the Bombay State, it was merged with the Mysore State (later Karnataka) at the time of the reorganisation of States in 1956. The MES, which came into being in 1948, has been opposed to the merger and continues to do so.
The long-standing Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute over the status of Belagavi district has witnessed a continual reigniting of tensions in the past years.
In December 2019, the Maharashtra police had suspended bus services between Kolhapur (in western Maharashtra) and Belagavi (in Karnataka) as a precautionary measure after activists of the Belagavi-based Karnataka Navnirman Sena (KNS) had defaced Marathi hoardings and billboards in Belagavi and adjoining areas in Karnataka.
In retaliation, Shiv Sena activists had blackened Kannada language hoardings and hotel billboards in Kolhapur city.
At the time, the trigger behind the soaring political temperatures on the border was a controversial statement by KNS chief Bhimashankar Patil, who allegedly said leaders of the MES “ought to be shot dead”. Mr. Patil’s remarks had evoked strong reactions from the Shiv Sena, which has lent political support to the MES throughout its decades-long struggle.