Why Belagavi district is difficult to divide

The State Cabinet’s approval for the creation of Vijayanagara district by dividing Ballari has led to demands to divide Belagavi, the biggest district in the State. While the argument for division is that it would help improve administration, the issue in the border district is linked to other concerns, especially linguistic ones. Leaders’ concerns about how it would affect their political careers are also a big factor at play.

There are many who feel Belagavi is a case fit for division, given the vastness of the district. It has 506 gram panchayats, the most in Karnataka. The 55 lakh people of the district reside in 18 Assembly segments in 14 taluks. People from some villages in Chikkodi have to travel 200 km to reach the district headquarters. Other big towns such as Chikkodi, Gokak, Bailhongal, Hukkeri, Athani, and Khanapur are deprived of agencies or facilities such as the district central cooperative bank, KMF dairies, consumer dispute reddressal forums, zilla panchayats, NABARD offices, and HESCOM distribution centres. They also have fewer higher educational institutions.

However, for linguistic reasons, Kannada organisations have strongly opposed the plan to divide Belagavi district since 1997. The then Chief Minister J.H. Patel’s announcement on the formation of Chikkodi district by dividing Belagavi had sparked off angry protests in Belagavi and surrounding towns. Kannada leaders were apprehensive that Kannada speakers would be reduced to a minority in the district if it were to be divided. Activists protested for 29 days before the State government relented. Patel issued orders withholding the division and said Belagavi would remain undivided till the border dispute with Maharashtra was settled.

Political play

Satish Jarkiholi, Congress leader and patriarch of the Gokak-based Jarkiholi clan, has now renewed the debate with a demand that Belagavi be, in fact, trifurcated on the lines of Dharwad. “Why can’t Gokak and Chikkodi be separate districts?” he asked. He has argued that the threat of Marathi assertion and the demand for merger of Belagavi with Maharashtra has lost steam. He also claimed that fears of Marathi speakers gaining the upper hand in the zilla panchayat or the district central cooperative bank were “unfounded”.

Leaders such as Prabhakar Kore and Mahantesh Kavatagimath have opposed the creation of Chikkodi district, fearing that former Minister and Congress leader Prakash Hukkeri would come to dominate it. However, B.R. Sangappagol, president of Chikkodi Zilla Horata Samiti, has welcomed it, calling it a long-pending demand.

Kannada activists, however, are against the idea. “If the Jarkiholi brothers are speaking of carving out Gokak district, it is because they want their fiefdoms. They don’t have the people’s welfare in mind,” said Ashok Chandaragi, convener of the action committee of Kannada associations.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 11:58:59 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/why-belagavi-district-is-difficult-to-divide/article33265303.ece

Next Story