Karnataka legislature session in Belgaum amid protests
Belgaum, Sep 25 : For the first time in the history of Karnataka, the state legislature Monday began its session here, even as agitators held a rally in this northern city to press for their demand to merge Belgaum district with neighbouring Maharashtra.
Being held outside the state capital, Bangalore, during the 50th year of the state's formation, the five-day joint session of the assembly and legislative council is to focus on socio-economic issues pertaining to north Karnataka, including the boundary dispute with Maharashtra.
The session has made the entire political establishment and official machinery to shift its operations en masse to Belgaum, about 650 km from Bangalore, which has been spruced up for the event.
Even as the session began at the J.N. Medical College auditorium, the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi (MES), the regional party agitating for the merger of Belgaum district with Maharashtra, organised a parallel function to reiterate its demand for development of Marathi-speaking villages in the border areas.
Amid tight security, hundreds of MES and Shiv Sena cadres and supporters took out a procession, raising slogans against the state government for opposing their demand and neglecting the region's development.
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil and several legislators from the neighbouring state are also in the city to participate in the rally. The MES has four legislators in the 224-member Karnataka assembly.
Though the decision to hold the legislative session at Belgaum was taken by the previous Dharam Singh government, the present Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government hastened to hold it now in the wake of Maharashtra taking the boundary dispute to the Supreme Court recently.
"It is unfortunate the Maharashtra government has moved the apex court for a judicial intervention on the boundary issue that was settled long ago (in 1967) by the Mehr Chand Mahajan Commission in favour of Karnataka. The Mahajan report, favouring the retention of Belgaum district with the state, was also tabled in parliament in 1970," Karnataka Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy told reporters here.
"This joint session of legislature is being held here to send a strong signal to Maharashtra and the central government that the boundary issue should not be raked up again.
"Any attempt to revive the settled issue will only cause tension and disrupt the peace in the border areas," Kumaraswamy said.
Though the central government had endorsed Karnataka's position by accepting the Mahajan report as final in its affidavit before the apex court, renewed pressure from Maharashtra's political parties, including the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine, forced it to seek more time to file a supplementary affidavit.
The first day of the session was, however, devoted to paying tributes to Bharat Ratna Ustad Bismillah Khan and other personalities who passed away after the last session was adjourned sine die in August.
The opposition Congress has dubbed the Belgaum session a gimmick and a waste of funds at a time when several parts of the state were reeling under drought-like conditions and some northern districts were yet to recover from recent floods.
"We are not against holding the session here. In fact, it was the Congress that took this initiative last year. We also stand by the government on the boundary issue," former chief minister Dharam Singh told reporters here.
Article Title: Karnataka legislature session in Belgaum amid protests
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