Belagavi border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka
- The decades-old dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra over the Belagavi or as Maharashtra likes to call it the Belgaum district, is back in the headlines.
- Belgaum or Belagavi is currently part of Karnataka but is claimed by Maharashtra.
- In 1957, slighted by the implementation of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, Maharashtra demanded readjustment of its border with Karnataka.
- Maharashtra invoked Section 21 (2) (b) of the Act and submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi- speaking areas being added to Karnataka.
- It claimed an area of 2,806 square miles that involved 814 villages, and three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani with a total population of about 6.7 lakh, all part of the Mumbai Presidency before independence.
- The villages are spread across Belagavi and Uttar Kannada in north-western Karnataka, and Bidar and Gulbarga districts in north-eastern Karnataka — all bordering Maharashtra.
- Later, when a four-member committee was formed by both States, Maharashtra expressed willingness to transfer predominantly Kannada-speaking 260 villages with a population of about 3.25 lakh and total area of 1,160 square miles.
- This was in lieu of accepting its demand for 814 villages and three urban settlements, which was turned down by Karnataka.
Basis of Maharashtra’s Claim:
- Maharashtra’s claim to seek the readjustment of its border was on the basis of contiguity, relative linguistic majority and wishes of the people. If the claim over Belagavi and surrounding areas was based on Marathi-speaking people and linguistic homogeneity, it laid its claim over Karwar and Supa where Konkani is spoken by citing Konkani as a dialect of Marathi.
- Its argument was based on the theory of villages being the unit for calculation and enumerated linguistic population in each village. Maharashtra also points out the historical fact that the revenue records in these Marathi-speaking areas are also kept in Marathi.
- Karnataka has argued that the settlement of boundaries as per the States Reorganisation Act is final.
- The boundary of the State was neither tentative nor flexible. The State argues that the issue would reopen border issues that have not been contemplated under the Act, and that such a demand should not be permitted.
Steps Taken to Resolve the Issue:
- In 1960, both States agreed to set up a four-man committee with two representatives from each State. Except on the issue of contiguity, the committee could not arrive at a unanimous decision.
- Between the 1960s and 1980s, chief ministers of Karnataka and Maharashtra have met several times to find a solution to the vexed issue but with no avail.
Response of Union Government:
- The central government constituted the Mahajan Committee in 1966 to assess the situation. Representatives from both sides, Maharashtra and the then Mysore state were part of the committee.
- In 1967, the committee recommended that some villages in Karwar, Haliyal and Suparna talukas of Karnataka be given to Maharashtra but left Belagavi with the southern state.
Response of the Supreme Court:
- In 2006, the Supreme Court held that the issue should be resolved through mutual negotiation and that linguistic criterion should not be considered as it may create more practical problems.
- The case is still being heard by the Supreme Court.