You can almost be sure what happens when the issue comes to the fore; the time it takes to generate a stir; the installations and services that get targeted on either side; the statements that will be issued; the resolutions that will be passed in state assemblies and the delegations that will be led to Delhi. Every chief minister in the last few decades, on both sides of the border, has led delegations to Delhi on this issue and every prime minister has received a memorandum in this connection. That is the boring certainty of it all. Nobody looks for permanent solutions, nobody can force a permanent solution and there are no permanent solutions either. Hence they linger on. That is perhaps the nature of border and water disputes not just in India, but across the globe.
However, this time around, in the Belgaum issue, there have been a couple of categorical assertions. Not that they would lead to solutions, but they hold a potential to generate a new polemic. The first of the statements was of course made by the union government in its affidavit to the Supreme Court. It said: "It is not correct to say that certain areas were wrongly merged in Karnataka. The language of the people has been one criteria, but not the sole criteria for inclusion of any area, village, taluka, municipal area in a state." The second interesting statement followed this when Maharastra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, on the floor of the Assembly, said that Belgaum and other Marathi-speaking areas on the border should be declared a Union Territory. Chavan, later, played down this statement when he went to Delhi. He perhaps understood its spiralling implications or was, in all likelihood, chided by his bosses.
While the second statement tries to impose a new and neutral affiliation to a disputed territory, the first statement is the one that goes on to challenge or alter a popular perception of history, by digging out the fine print of law. Not just that, it also paves the way for the future. A future where states have to refashion themselves as administrative blocks and not as we have done till now -- a cultural and linguistic assemblage. The first and the second statements have a common ground, in the sense that they both aspire to an emotionally de-tangled situation. They are both indicative of a changing nation. A nation that has seen vast inter-state migrations for economic purposes, tilting the delicate balance of cultural demography imagined 50 years ago when the linguistic reorganisation of states was initiated. We now have new economic hubs that attract people from all over. Even within states, integrated by a single language, like the Andhra Pradesh, we have recently witnessed agitations where correcting economic imbalances has taken precedence over linguistic unity. The reconciliation between these emotional templates we created decades ago and the economic exigencies of the present is undoubtedly going to be a difficult one.
Anyway getting back to the affidavit of the government: it is alright to say that language was not the 'sole criteria' for the reorganisation of the states, but it can't be denied that it was the primary criteria. If language wasn't at the heart of the exercise then how does one explain the existence of Chondemukhed, a border village in the Aurad taluk of Bidar district in Karnataka? A Kannada daily recently called Chondemukhed a 'linguistic island,' because it is part of Karnataka, but surrounded by the villages of Maharastra. You can't reach this village without stepping into the territory of Maharastra. Further, the electricity for this village is supplied by Maharastra, but the bill is issued by Karnataka. This village is part of Chikli gram panchayat and until recently if a villager had to reach the GP office he had to trek 31 km via Udgeer in Maharastra. But now, under the Prime Minister's Gram Sadak Yojana a direct road, about 14 km, has been built between Chikli and Chondemukhed, still, 6 km of this road falls in Maharastra. Just imagine the plight of the people who live here. There are hundreds of Chondemukheds across India.