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Deccan Herald » Panorama » Detailed Story
Singing the same old song again
By Padmaraj Dandavathi
The boundary dispute is nothing new for Karnataka and Maharashtra. Now once again, Maharashtra is singing the same old song: That the Marathi strong areas which remained with Karnataka at the time of re-organisation of states, should be brought under Central rule.
 

The boundary dispute is nothing new for Karnataka and Maharashtra. Now once again, Maharashtra is singing the same old song: That the Marathi strong areas which remained with Karnataka at the time of re-organisation of states, should be brought under Central rule.

It has also filed an appeal in the Supreme Court to this effect. But the appeal reflects yet again the view that was expressed in the main petition filed by the Maharashtra government on March 29, 2004.

It had prayed that the court should ensure that there are no obstacles to the exercise of right to franchise by the Marathi speaking people, what with the assembly and Lok Sabha elections in the offing. “Hence the areas in dispute should be brought under Central rule,” the petition had urged.

The Karnataka government, in its reply, had said, “There have been a number of elections after 1956. But such an appeal has never been made till date. Can it be anything other than a political reason which has forced the filing of an appeal of the aforesaid kind?”

However, in the appeal filed on March 15 this year, the Maharashtra government has highlighted that the reason for such an appeal to be made was ‘the feeling of insecurity among the Marathi speaking people living in Karnataka, in the recent days’.

And as a proof of statement, the incident in which former Belgaum Mayor Vijay More was painted black by the Kannada Rakshana Vedike has been quoted. Besides, the action of dissolving the Belgaum City Corporation has been referred.

At the time of re-organisation of the states, Mysore State lost Sholapur, Kasargod, Udakamandalam and other places. But it accepted the decision of the Centre gracefully. On the other hand, Maharashtra has not missed any opportunity to rake up the issue.

Though several committees and commissions were formed to resolve the dispute, the most significant of them all was the Meharchand Mahajan Commission in 1966. In October 1966 in Bombay, at the AICC convention, the Congress was exhorted to constitute a commission to resolve the boundary dispute. Both states should be bound by the commission’s decision, the AICC decided.

Though the decision was against Mysore State, S Nijalingappa, the then chief minister, was pressurised into giving his consent for the constitution of a commission. His Maharashtra counterpart was V P Nayak. It was Y B Chavan, who was the then Union Home Minister who brought pressure on Indira Gandhi to set up a commission. And, she had to bow to the pressure.

But when the Mahajan report came about, Maharashtra’s prime demands were not met. “Khanapur taluk and Nippani town, along with 249 villages should go to Maharashtra. Similarly, of the 260 villages that Maharashtra had agreed to transfer, 11 should be retained and 249 villages should go to Mysore State,” the commission recommended.

The other important recommendation included transfer of Kasargod which was with Kerala to Mysore State. But the report was against the interest of Mysore State because it recommended transfer of Khanapur taluk, which had thick forests and is the origin of the Malaprabha river; and that of Nippani, which is the centre of business in tobacco to Maharashtra. Despite this, the Mysore Assembly resolved for implementing the Commission report.

But the Maharashtra government broke the promise made during the AICC convention and rejected the recommendations. It began to talk again about considering villages as units and then reorganising the regions. The reason why Maharashtra has been raking up the boundary dispute with Karnataka frequently is the interest it has in Belgaum city, which is like Kashmir to Karnataka. But, the Mahajan commission had rejected its demand.

The State Reorganisation Commission (SRC) headed by Fazal Ali had clarified that ‘the proposal of Maharashtra seeking transfer of Belgaum, under the banner of home land, cannot be accepted in the interests of the integrity of the nation. If one encourages people living in a particular state, who look upon another state as their home land, and the idea that they should be accorded protection because they speak the language of the other state, it would amount to undermining the very foundation of nationality’, it had observed.

Mahajan too had emphasised this aspect in his report and stated that Belgaum cannot be attached to Maharashtra. The Commission also disagreed with the view of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samithi that the victory of MES candidates in elections several times in Belgaum city, Khanapur, Uchgaon, Nippani and Hirebagewadi assembly constituencies should be considered as people’s mandate.

“There are various factors which influence voters and hence election results cannot be taken as the basis,” the Commission said.

In the 1999 assembly elections, not even one MES candidate was elected to the Karnataka Assembly from the Belgaum constituency. That was the first time a Kannadiga won the elections in that constituency. The same candidate retained the seat in the 2004 elections. With that the claim by MES that elections are a reflection of people’s desire to be part of Maharashtra too fell flat.

Now, after Maharashtra filed a petition in the Supreme Court, the Karnataka government constituted a special legal advisory committee led by senior advocate H B Datar, which in turn submitted a 177-page objection report to the court.

“There is a provision under Section 131 of the Constitution to file an appeal seeking resolution of any kind of dispute between the two states. But it would not be applicable to this case because there is no substance in the argument of Maharashtra. The same has been conveyed to the apex court,” Mr Datar told Deccan Herald.

The stand taken by Karnataka is that even the Supreme Court cannot decide on the habitation of people who have lived in a particular region for over half a century. “The Karnataka Lingayat Society and the Karnataka Law Society headquartered in Belgaum, have established hundreds of educational institutions and hospitals by investing crores of rupees. Maharashtra’s aim is to usurp this resource,” Mr Datar argued.

“Karnataka’s population is 5.2 crore as per the 1991 census. Of this 44 lakh are Urdu speaking people, 32 lakh Telugu speaking and 17 lakh Tamilians.

Hardly there are 16 lakh Marathi speaking people. As such Karnataka has questioned the so called insecurity feeling among the Marathi speaking people which has been raised by Maharashtra before the court”, he pointed out.

Now Maharashtra is worried over the silence of the Centre, which is also a respondent, over the issue.

It is said that the main reason why the Centre is maintaining silence is the fear that once it gives its views about the boundary dispute between the two states, other states too may make use of the same tactics.

As early as 1988 itself, the boundary dispute between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh reached the realms of the Supreme Court. And it remains unresolved till date. And it appears that the Centre is firm on the recommendations made by the SRC.

It is true that earlier, the Karnataka legislature had resolved for the implementation of the Mahajan Commission’s recommendations. But if that did not happen, Karnataka wanted status quo. More than implementing the recommendations, the status quo option is far more beneficial for Karnataka.

Population data in 1991

Number of Kannada and Marathi speaking

people living in Belgaum district and city

Total Kannada Average Marathi Average

population speaking speaking

Belgaum district

35.83 lakh 24.45 lakh 68.23 7.30 lakh 20.3

Belgaum City Corporation

3.26 lakh 1.15 lakh 35.48 1.25 lakh 38.53

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