The two Maharashtra Ministers, who had declared that they would visit Belagavi to hold meetings with Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) leaders, skipped their visit on Tuesday even as the Deputy Commissioner of Belagavi had banned their entry.
At the same time, the police prevented the entry of Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV) activists into the city. Enraged by this, the activists, who wanted to enter Belagavi to protest the visit of Maharashtra Ministers, resorted to a stir on the national highway and stoned three vehicles.
A team from Maharashtra comprising Ministers Chandrakant (Dada) Patil and Shambhuraj Desai, besides Dhairyasheel Mane, MP, had announced that they would visit Belagavi on Tuesday, hold meetings with MES leaders and visit houses of those the MES considers martyrs for Marathi cause. However, they skipped the visit. This is being seen as a response to the appeal by Karnataka that their visit would be inappropriate at this time.
Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had earlier said their visit at this juncture was inappropriate. Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil had even issued prohibitory orders, barring the three leaders from entering Belagavi district.
Maharashtra Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said the visit was postponed due to Ambedkar Mahaparinirvan Divas. “No one can stop them if they want to go. We are not afraid of going to Belagavi. The Constitution allows any Indian citizen to travel anywhere in the country,” he told Marathi TV channels in Mumbai. This was criticised by the NCP leaders who said the Ministers lacked the courage to visit Belagavi.
The Belagavi police stopped a large number of KRV activists, led by its president T.A. Narayana Gowda, at Hire Bagewadi village on the city’s outskirts.
Angered by this, KRV activists began a protest on the national highway, stopping vehicles. Mr. Gowda alleged that police had assaulted Kannada activists.
The protest by KRV activists turned violent with some of them stoning vehicles bearing Maharashtra registration numbers at Hire Bagewadi. The police said three vehicles were stoned. The protesters also blackened some vehicles. The police took the protesters into custody and took them away.
Mr. Fadnavis said he had spoken to Mr. Bommai, asking him to ensure safe passage for Maharashtra vehicles and to take action against those damaging vehicles. He claimed that Mr. Bommai had assured him of action.
The city police took some MES activists, who protested against the State government, into custody.
Taking no chances, the police had made tight security arrangements in the wake of the scheduled visit of Maharashtra leaders. Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Patil said that over 1,000 police personnel were on duty at the 21 border check-posts and border villages.