Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Dispute Over Belgavi (Belgaum)

Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Dispute Over Belgavi (Belgaum)

December 29, 2022 - 11:13 am

 The Resolution on The inclusion of 865 Marathi-Speaking Areas Passed

Days after the Karnataka government passed the resolution on the inter-state boundary dispute with Maharashtra, both the houses of Maharashtra Legislature came forward to pass a unanimous resolution on Tuesday for the inclusion of 865 marathi-speaking villages and its people into Maharashtra despite an ongoing battle in the Supreme Court and an intervention from Home Minister in this regard. This episode came into picture in November following reports that the Supreme Court  was considering a fresh hearing on a 2004 petition filed by Maharashtra. Belagavi (formerly Belgaum), Karwar, and Nippani are among the 865 villages Maharashtra alleges were transferred to Karnataka and are requesting their incorporation into the state. Karnataka disputes the assertion. Additionally, Maharashtra's south Solapur and Akkalkote regions, which are home to a sizable Kannada-speaking community, are claimed by Karnataka.


What is the Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Dispute?

The dispute originates in 1956 following the enactment of the States Reorganisation Act and colonial-era provinces in India were reorganised along linguistic lines. In accordance with the States Reorganisation Commission's recommendations, the city of Belgaum (now Belagavi) and 865 villages distributed across 10 taluks that border modern Maharashtra were incorporated into the newly created Kannada State of Mysore. This angered Marathi speakers in the area, and their feelings gained momentum when the State of Maharashtra—a state that had just been created in 1960—supported their claims. 

On October 25, 1966, the Maharashtra government nominated Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan, a former Chief Justice of India, to head a panel to examine the demands made in a memo to the Union Home Ministry. In 1967, the panel conducted more than 7,000 interviews. While it advocated for the transfer of some Mysore villages to Maharashtra and vice versa, it insisted that Belgaum City should stay in Karnataka. The Mahajan Commission report was not implemented because Maharashtra rejected the commission's recommendations. Maharashtra appealed to the Supreme Court in 2004 after rejecting the findings.The report is still used as the final word in the dispute by the Karnataka side.

How is the Karnataka-Maharashtra Dispute being tackled?

Inter-state conflicts are frequently attempted to be resolved with the assistance of both parties, with the Centre acting as a facilitator or an impartial mediator. The Bihar-Uttar Pradesh (Alteration of Boundaries) Act of 1968 and the Haryana-Uttar Pradesh (Alteration of Boundaries) Act of 1979 are two examples of laws that Parliament has introduced to change state boundaries when disagreements are amicably settled. Amit Shah, the Union Home Minister, met with Basavaraj Bommai and Eknath Shinde, the Chief Ministers of Belagavi, and requested that they form a six-person team, with three ministers from each side, to resolve any boundary disputes. Uddhav Thakrey proposes to make disputed territories as Union Territory till the matter is resolved in the Supreme Court. If nothing goes the intended way, the Constitution includes further legal procedures for resolving conflicts between states. 

The Way Forward 

It is not the first time that such a border issue erupted; there are also other border disputes that are the result of competing claims to regions between Assam and Meghalaya, Assam and Nagaland, Assam and Mizoram, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, and Maharashtra and Karnataka. Even if the Supreme Court rules on Maharashtra's lawsuit, a suitable conclusion will remain elusive given the intense emotions surrounding the conflict. Given the complexity of the disagreement, which has legal ramifications for the country's federal system, and the fervour of linguistic chauvinists on both sides, it appears to be continuing to simmer and could erupt into violence at any time, as similar instances over the decades have proven. Critics doubt the complicacy of this dispute as it would spark a wave of demands identical to it from all throughout the nation. However, the border squabble also gives politicians in both States a platform to occasionally engage in sabre-rattling to improve their reputations in their own States, an issue in which both Marathi and Kannada language chauvinists have a deep stake.