Border row: Karnataka Police prevent Marathi writers from attending meet


Minister condemns incident; littérateur slams Yeddiyurappa govt.

The recent spike in Maharashtra-Karnataka border tensions over the long-standing Belagavi claim dispute cast its shadow on the literary world, with the Karnataka Police on Sunday allegedly refusing entry to a group of Marathi littérateurs for attending a rural literary meet in Belagavi’s Khanapur tehsil.

The group led by writer Shripal Sabnis was going for a ‘Marathi Sahitya Sammelan’ scheduled at Idanhol when they were prevented by the police, and warned they would be taken into custody if they attempted to proceed to the venue. The organisers, too, were discouraged from holding the Khanapur meet which eventually did not take place as a result of the police’s directives.

The Karnataka police’s high-handedness elicited sharp criticism from Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai, who is the Cabinet Minister for Marathi language and Cultural Affairs. “Today, a group of litterateurs were prohibited entry by the Karnataka police and were detained in Belagavi. I strongly condemn this repression on part of the police authorities,” Mr. Desai tweeted.

Mr. Sabnis hit out at the B.S. Yeddiyurappa government by likening it to a ‘neo- Hitler regime’. “A number of literary meets have been held in the past in the border areas…I was proceeding to one such meet today. But it seems that a Hitler has risen within the Karnataka government, which informed the police to prevent us from holding a literary meet…the organisers were directed not to hold the event while we were threatened with arrest if we attempted to reach the spot. The government had no moral nor ethical right to stop us,” Mr. Sabnis said at a press conference in Belagavi.

Demanding that the Centre reprimand the Karnataka government for its repressive actions, he said it was shameful that the discriminatory tactics of the Yeddiyurappa government was heightening linguistic tensions. “The Karnataka government’s actions constitute a blight on the teachings of harmony and unity of its saints and philosophers like Basaveshwara [12th century] and Kanaka Dasa [16th century Vaishnava poet].”

“The claim over Belagavi and the question of the 20 lakh Marathi-speaking populace on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border region remains unsolved. Such incidents only serve to further exacerbate tensions. The Karnataka government’s actions tantamount to a murder of constitutional principles,” Mr. Sabnis said, lauding the steps taken by the Uddhav Thackeray government in expediting a resolution of the decades-old border dispute.

Last month, the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute over the status of Belagavi district witnessed a reigniting of tensions. The immediate trigger was a controversial statement by Karnataka Navnirman Sena (KNS) chief Bhimashankar Patil, who allegedly said that the Marathi-speaking leaders of the Belagavi-based Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) “ought to be shot dead”.

Mr. Patil’s remark has stirred up a hornet’s nest with the KNS and the Shiv Sena — both regional and chauvinistic parties — attempting to outdo each other in rhetoric and deed. Protests by the KNS in Belagavi and counter protests by the Sena in Kolhapur and Sangli districts prompted the police to stop State Transport bus services from Kolhapur to Belagavi. Both parties also defaced billboards and hoardings in Marathi and Kannada on their respective sides of the border.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2020 8:24:58 AM |

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