Mumbai

Flare-up on Maharashtra-Karnataka border

Stranded: An elderly man reads a notice put up at Kolhapur bus depot informing commuters about the suspension of services between Kolhapur and Belagavi on Sunday.

Stranded: An elderly man reads a notice put up at Kolhapur bus depot informing commuters about the suspension of services between Kolhapur and Belagavi on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: Deepak Kumbhar

Bus services halted on Kolhapur-Belagavi route; Shiv Sena activists burn Yediyurappa’s effigy

The long-standing Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute over the status of Belagavi district witnessed a reigniting of tensions, compelling the police on Sunday to suspend bus services between Kolhapur (in western Maharashtra) and Belagavi (in Karnataka) as a precautionary measure.

Protests by the regional outfit Karnataka Navnirman Sena (KNS) in Belagavi and counter-protests by the Shiv Sena in Kolhapur and Sangli districts prompted the police to stop State Transport (ST) bus services from Kolhapur to Belagavi. The Karnataka police authorities took similar measures, causing bus services to come to a standstill along the Kolhapur-Belagavi route.

Retaliatory attacks

Earlier in the day, KNS activists defaced Marathi hoardings and billboards in Belagavi and adjoining areas. Sena activists, in retaliation, blackened Kannada hoardings and hotel billboards in Kolhapur city. A large crowd of Sena activists also burnt an effigy of Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa near the Kolhapur ST stand.

Meanwhile, Yuva Sena workers stormed into Apsara Theatre in Kolhapur city and halted the screening of Avane Srimannarayana, a popular Kannada film. They also issued a warning to theatre owners to desist from showing Kannada motion pictures. A number of demonstrations by Sena activists against the KNS were witnessed in Sangli district as well.

The trigger behind the soaring political temperatures on the border is a recent controversial statement by KNS chief Bhimashankar Patil, who allegedly said that leaders of the Belagavi-based Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) “ought to be shot dead”. Mr. Patil’s remarks evoked strong reactions from the Shiv Sena, which has lent political support to the MES throughout its decades-long struggle.

The MES, which claims to represent the Marathi-speaking populace of Belagavi, has been agitating for the merger of the Marathi-speaking border areas with Maharashtra and staking a claim on Belagavi, which has a significant Marathi-speaking populace, as an integral part of Maharashtra.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has even referred to Belagavi and its nearby areas where people chiefly speak Marathi as ‘Karnataka occupied Maharashtra’, drawing the ire of Karnataka politicians, including culture minister C.T. Ravi.

‘Shameful statement’

Lashing out at Mr. Patil, Sena MP from Hatkanangale Dhairyasheel Mane, who led the protests in Kolhapur, said at a time when the border dispute is pending before the Supreme Court, “certain persons [Mr. Patil] are making shameful statements and escalating tensions on linguistic grounds”.

Mr. Mane said, “They [the KNS] had the audacity to burn the effigy of our Chief Minister and party leader Uddhav Thackeray, who has shown uncommon restraint in dealing with this issue. Our protest today, in which a number of MES leaders participated, is to send a strong message that the Sena stands firmly behind the Marathi-speaking populace in Karnataka. In the event that outfits like the KNS attempt to harm even a single hair on their heads, the Sena will storm into Karnataka and answer in kind.”

‘Need climate of security’

Mr. Mane said the Sena has so far safeguarded the rights of Kannadigas who have settled in Maharashtra and it is the duty of the Karnataka government to create a climate of security for Marathi-speaking people and condemn statements by outfits like the KNS.

Mr. Patil’s “shooting dead” remark has stirred a hornet’s nest with the KNS and the Sena, both regional and chauvinistic parties, attempting to outdo each other in both rhetoric and deed.

Mr. Thackeray had earlier this month 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.

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.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 1:45:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/flare-up-on-maharashtra-karnataka-border/article30427813.ece

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