Amid simmering tension at the Karnataka-Maharashtra border where huge protests were planned today for the last winter session of the BS Bommai government in Karnataka, Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena leaders were detained and taken into preventive custody. NCP’s Hasan Mushrif, and Shiv Sena’s Kolhapur district president Vijay Devane, were detained today while trying to enter Karnataka’s Belagavi, the centre of the decades-old border dispute where the 10-day winter session of the Karnataka Assembly is being held. This will be the state’s last winter session before it goes to polls next year.
More than 300 members of Shiv Sena, Congress, and NCP were stopped at the border and sent back by Karnataka, and some were detained by the Maharashtra police.
Activists of Madhyavarti Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MMES), an organisation that has been raising the issue for over five decades, have planned massive protests ahead of the winter session of the Karnataka Assembly.
Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole has blamed the dispute on the Centre, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “dividing” India.
“The border issue is happening because of the central government. PM Modi wants to divide Maharashtra. Despite the meeting between both Chief Ministers and Home Minister Amit Shah, why are leaders not allowed to go there? This shows that the central government is behind this issue,” he said.
The Chief Ministers of Karnataka and Maharashtra had agreed not to press their claims in the decades-long state border dispute till the Supreme Court takes a call on the matter, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said last week after a meeting with the two leaders.
However, Maharashtra Chief Minister CM Eknath Shinde today said the issue is of “Maharashtra’s pride” and that the state has taken a strong stand on the issue.
“Home Minister himself informed the media about the issue. The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti is protesting today, there should not be any politics on this issue. There are several other issues over which we can do politics,” he said.
Mr Shinde said he has information from the police about who are the villagers who want to join Karnataka, and “who are behind them”
“We are with our people and will provide anything required. We even told BS Bommai that whatever you are tweeting isn’t right, he said that that isn’t his Twitter handle,” Eknath Shinde said.
Maharashtra had been upset over the inclusion of Marathi-speaking areas — including Belgavi, part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency — in Karnataka during the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of Karnataka.
Karnataka maintains the demarcation is final and there can be no change.
First-time Maharashtra MP Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane, who was appointed as the chief of the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute expert committee, was expected to visit Belagavi today, even though the district administration has barred his entry.
“If the arrival of Maharashtra MP into Karnataka threatens law and order, we will initiate action. No permission has been granted for him to enter Belagavi. He will be stopped at the border and sent back,” Additional Director General of Police, Law & Order, Alok Kumar, had said.
Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane was scheduled to take part in the event organised by the MMES, but the police said it is likely that he may deliver inflammatory speeches, which would lead to linguistic conflict and create a law and order problem, eventually leading to damage to public properties.
More than 61 organisations had sought permission to hold protests during the Assembly session, forcing a massive deployment of police on the ground.
More than 4,000 police personnel including six Superintendents of Police, 11 additional Superintendents, 43 deputy Superintendents, 95 police inspectors, and 241 police sub-inspectors have been deployed in Belagavi.
Over the last weeks, trucks from Maharashtra have been attacked in Karnataka and buses of the southern state have been defaced by workers of the Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena.