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Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Row: Ministers' Visit Postponed, Inter-State Bus Service Suspended

Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Row: Ministers' Visit Postponed, Inter-State Bus Service Suspended

Buses of Maharashtra and Karnataka were attacked and vandalised in both the states as the government held talks to douse the simmering tensions over Maharashtra-Karnataka border tensions.

Maharashtra ministers cancelled visit to Belagavi amid simmering border row with Karnataka
Maharashtra ministers cancelled visit to Belagavi amid simmering border row with Karnataka

Two Maharashtra ministers on Tuesday postponed their scheduled visits to Belagavi in Karnataka amid simmering border tensions between the two states.

Maharashtra also suspended bus services to Karnataka as vehicles from Maharashtra were attacked in Karnataka. 

Amid these developments, 11 villages in Maharashtra bordering Karnataka called for the fulfilment of their demands or a merger with Karnataka. 

As Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai asserted his government was committed to protect the borders and called for maintaining harmony between people residing on both sides, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called up  Bommai and expressed disappointment over stone pelting on vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra. 

Maharashtra ministers' visit postponed

Maharashtra ministers Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai, appointed for coordinating the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute, were earlier scheduled to meet activists of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) at Belagavi in Karnataka and hold talks with them on the decades-old border issue. MES is an organisation fighting for the merger of Belagavi and some other border areas with Maharashtra.

The visit was postponed at the behest of Karnataka government. 

"We have officially informed the Karnataka government that two of our ministers are going to Belagavi but the Karnataka government said that if we go there, law and order situation can arise in Belagavi. We decided to postpone this, we haven't cancelled our visit," said Maharashtra minister Desai, as per a report. 

Bommai denied the border issue had anything to do with the 2023 Assembly polls in his state.

"There is no relationship with upcoming assembly elections and Karnataka's stand on the border issue. For many years now, it is Maharashtra that has been raking up the issue," he said, maintaining there is harmony between people of both states and it should not be disturbed.

He further said, "The case is before the Supreme Court, our stand is both legal and constitutional, so we are confident that we will win the legal battle. So there is no question of us wanting to create an issue out of it for the sake of elections. We are committed to protect the state's borders and our people, and also the interests of Kannadigas living in Maharashtra, Telangana and Kerala."

The Belagavi district administration on Monday issued orders barring entry of Patil and Desai and also an MP, who are members of the Maharashtra High Power Committee on the Border Dispute. 

Fadnavis, Bommai hold talks

During the day, Fadnavis spoke to Bommai over attack on  vehicles entering Karnataka from the western state.

Amid the raging border row between the two states, a video surfaced on social media showing some people throwing stones at vehicles entering Karnataka from the Maharashtra side near a toll booth at Hirebaugwadi in Belagavi district of the adjoining state.

Sources close to the Maharashtra Deputy CM said, “Fadnavis made a phone call to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and expressed his disappointment over the Hirebaugwadi incident. The Karnataka Chief Minister assured Fadnavis of strong action against the perpetrators. He also assured Fadnavis that vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra will be given proper protection."

Political reactions to border row

Talking to reporters in Mumbai, NCP president Sharad Pawar blamed Karnataka Chief Minister Bommai for the “worrisome” situation in the border areas and warned Maharashtra's  "patience" will take a different turn if attacks on vehicles entering the southern state are not stopped in 24 hours.

Pawar said the Karnataka government and the Centre will be held responsible if the law and order deteriorates in backdrop of the border row. He added the time has come to take a stand in view of the situation prevailing in the areas on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border.

He said, “Maharashtra has taken a stand of observing patience and it is still ready to do that. But even that has a limit. In 24 hours, if the attacks on vehicles are not stopped then this patience will take a different path and the responsibility will be completely on the Karnataka chief minister and the Karnataka government."

In Pune city, activists of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction sprayed black and orange paints on at least three Karnataka state transport buses in the Swargate area. They also wrote "Jai Maharashtra" on these buses. A local leader of the opposition Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) confirmed they painted the buses.

Workers of the Shiv Sena (UBT) faction sprayed at least two to three buses of Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) with black paint.

"We have detained four to five people who painted the buses," a police officer said.

The decades-old Karnataka-Maharashtra border row has flared up in the last few days, leading to a war of words between politicians of the two states.

Maharashtra-Karnataka border row explained

The border issue dates back to 1957 after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency as it has a sizable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of the southern state.

Karnataka, however, considers the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report as final.

Maharashtra village threatens mergers

Eleven Maharashtra villages close to Karnataka border have said either they should be provided better amenities or they should be merged with Karnataka.

Akkalkot tehsil on Monday submitted a list of their demands to the Solapur collector. The villages, in the list, have asked the district administration to provide them basic facilities or permit them to merge with Karnataka if their demands are not met. 

Sagunabai Hatture, the sarpanch of Aalagi, one of the 11 villages, claimed that there were no proper roads, power supply and water in these areas.

"As there is no proper road to our village, teachers and medical staff at the primary health centre cannot come to the village. Youngsters find it difficult to go out to access education and for other works due to lack of connectivity," Hatture said.

A resolution was passed in the gram panchayat to submit a letter to the district collector asking the government to provide basic facilities to these villages or allow them to merge with Karnataka, she said.

A resident of Aalagi, Mahantesh Hatture said the adjoining areas in Karnataka have enough water and good road connectivity.

These villages faced water problems and the road connectivity was deplorable, said Appasaheb Shatgar, the sarpanch of Hilli village.

"A lot of water is released during the monsoon season from the Ujani dam and due to improper management, sugarcane fields and houses get flooded. However, in summers no water is released to our areas. We have to beg politicians and officials concerned for water," Shatgar said.

He further said the school infrastructure was inadequate and the healthcare system was also not up to the mark.

Shatgar pointed out that all basic facilities such as motorable roads, street lights and adequate power supply were available in Karnataka.

"We have no affection towards Karnataka, but for how long can we face this injustice? It has been 75 years now," he said, arguing that if the Maharashtra government had provided basic facilities to villages they would not have demanded merger with the adjoining state.

In a separate development, another clutch of villages in Maharashtra have threatened to merge with neighbouring Gujarat. In response, Maharashtra minister Dada Bhuse on Tuesday assured agitators from Surgana taluka of Nashik district of an "all-inclusive" development of the border areas, days after they threatened to merge with Gujarat alleging the lack of facilities.

At least 55 villages and hamlets located in border areas in Surgana taluka recently demanded if their issues are not resolved they would merge with neighbouring Gujarat.

“Maharashtra has a legacy of social justice and development and the state is known for it across the country. A plan will be prepared with a preference for an all-inclusive development of tribal villages and 'padas (small settlements)' on the Gujarat border in Surgana taluka and a time-bound programme will be undertaken," Bhuse, the guardian minister of Nashik district, told agitators at a meeting. 

(With PTI inputs)

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