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Maharashtra Karnataka border row

Kiski Mumbai? Maharashtra, Karnataka border row rages

So, who owns Mumbai? Yeh Mumbai aakhir kiski hai? The border row between Maharashtra and Karnataka has raged again. And the two neighbouring states have locked their horns over the maximum city now. The old fight over land between them has intensified with Karnataka dealing a blow to Maharashtra where it hurts most. The state’s Deputy Chief Minister Laxman Savadi demanded to make Mumbai a part of Karnataka. One of Maharashtra’s ruling parties, Shiv Sena, hit back hard calling Savadi insane for his demand.

In a Saamna article, the Shiv Sena also sought a clarification on the issue from the Maharashtra BJP because Laxman Savadi is a member of the saffron party. It also invoked the united Maharashtra movement saying Savadi’s statement has insulted the 105 martyrs of the movement. 

Before this, the Karnataka Deputy Chief Minister’s counterpart in Maharashtra, Ajit Pawar, made it clear that Mumbai belonged to Maharashtra and it will always remain a part of the state. 

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The fresh war of words erupted over Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray‘s statement in which he urged to declare the areas in north Karnataka dominated by Marathi-speakers a union territory. The decades-old land dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra is pending before the Supreme Court. Uddhav Thackeray called for the creation of a union territory till the apex court delivers its final verdict. 

Provoked by this statement, Laxman Savadi said that the people of his region believe that they have been part of Mumbai-Karnataka, so they also have their right on Mumbai. Condemning Uddhav Thackeray’s statement the Karnataka Deputy CM made an appeal to the centre to make Mumbai a union territory till it is declared a part of Karnataka. 

Laxman Savadi further asserted that the 1967 Mahajan Commission report on the land dispute between the two states was final, which was welcomed by Karnataka but rejected by Maharashtra. 

What is Mahajan Commission report

A commission under the chairmanship of former CJI Mehr Chand Mahajan was constituted by the centre in 1966 after the insistence of the Maharashtra government. 

The commission presented its report in a year and recommended merging some of the villages in Karnataka’s Belgaum district with Maharashtra. The Mahajan Commission though rejected the demand for the merger of Belgaum with Maharashtra. Consequently, Maharashtra refused to accept the report, while Karnataka since then has been in its favour seeking to implement it.

Maharashtra, Karnataka border row: How it started

The controversy began with the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which mandated Belgaum along with ten talukas of Bombay State to become a part of the Mysore state. The act, becoming effective from 1 November 1956, separated states on the basis of language. 

Maharashtra was against it asking for the inclusion of areas with a majority of Marathi-speaking population – like Belgaum, Nipani and Karwar – to the state. For the last five decades, the Marathi speaking people in hundreds of villages in Gulbarga and Belgaum districts have been upping the ante to fulfill their demands.

Unending politics over language in border districts

With Maharashtra not agreeing to the Mahajan Commission report, the dispute between the two states has been pending in the top court for decades. And there has been no end to politics over the issue. Ironically, in both Maharashtra and Karnataka the Congress and BJP (with former ally Shiv Sena) have been in power, but the confrontation over land has refused to cease.

Now, BJP ruled Karnataka is at loggerheads with the Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi ruled neighbour Maharashtra. 

Recently, Uddhav Thackeray accused Karnataka of appropriating the Belgaum district by changing its name to ‘Belgavi’ despite the matter being in the court. He went on to threaten that the area would be made a part of Maharashtra.’

But the Yediyurappa government in Karnataka has reiterated that the villages in Belgaum and Gulbarga have always been an integral part of the state. Chief Minister B. S. Yediyurappa accused Uddhav Thackeray of trying to sabotage an amicable atmosphere.

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Meanwhile, due to the inherent vote bank politics, ruling alliance Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi stands united over the issue, with even NCP leader Ajit Pawar earlier emphasising that Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray fought all his life to unite Maharashtra by incorporating Belgaum, Karwar and Nipani into the state.

Sadly, the politics over land and language has led to violence in the past in both Karnataka and Maharashtra. The ruling dispensations in the neigbouring states have been ratcheting up the issue once again for the last few months. One hopes politicians exercise maximum possible restraint in making the issue emotive and do not let their bickerings spill over to the streets again.