The Maharashtra government is reportedly using its police force to threaten and intimidate members of gram panchayats who backed a resolution seeking a merger with Karnataka.
Around 40 villages of Jatha taluka of Sangli and 11 villages of Akkalkot taluka of Solapur district had passed a resolution calling for a merger of their villages with Karnataka.
Now, the Shiv Sena-BJP-led Maharashtra government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has reportedly threatened to dissolve 11 village panchayats of Akkalkot and also initiate action against the panchayat development officers (PDOs) for passing a resolution against the government.
“The government is threatening to dissolve the gram panchayats and take action against officers. Even if they hang me in the Talavada police station, there is no question of withdrawing the resolution. It is our fundamental right. We will continue to fight until our demand is met,” said Mahantesh H, president of Alage gram panchayat.
He was addressing the elected members during a meeting at Alage in Akkalkot on Friday, 9 December.
Explainer: What the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute is all about
Notices served on panchayats
The Akkalkot South police station has served notices on 11 village panchayats. In the notices, the police has also cautioned them against staging protests against the government over the border row or causing any threat to law and order in the region.
“The police have also served notices to 17 people, who were protesting. Ten of them have fled from the village fearing arrest. The police are constantly threatening the elected members of the village panchayats to withdraw the resolution,” Malikjan Shaikh, chairman of the Adarsha Kannada Balaga and a resident of Akkalkot, told South First.
“Maharashtra government has completely ignored the border areas, where a large number of Kannadigas have been residing for many decades. We have decided to carry out a padayatra for about 200 kilometers in the border areas against the Maharashtra government,” Shaikh added.
“We have demanded that the Maharashtra government set-up a Maharashtra Basaveshwara Pradikar for the welfare of the Kannadigas residing in this state. However, we are not receiving any kind of support from the Karnataka government,” Shaikh said.
“The government is continuously mounting pressure on the elected members of village panchayats to withdraw the resolution. The police are stopping us from using Karnataka flags during the protest,” Mahadevappa Ankalagi, a resident of Jath taluka, told South First.
Kannada activist Ashok Chandaragi submitted a memorandum to the Belagavi Deputy Commissioner Nitesh Patil seeking protection for Kannada-speaking people residing in the border areas of Maharashtra.
“We have given all the facilities to the Marathi-speaking people in Karnataka. Similarly, the Maharashtra government has to give necessary facilities to Kannada-speaking people. Intimidating people for passing resolutions is wrong,” Karnataka’s Minister for Water Resources Govind Karjol said.
“We are living in a federal system and Maharashtra has to understand it,” he added, expressing displeasure at the Maharashtra government’s threat to dissolve 11 village panchayats.
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Bus services resume, but partially
After many Karnataka buses were defaced in Pune, the North Western Karnataka Road Transport Corporation (NWKRTC) had withdrawn services to the neighbouring state on 8 December. However, the bus services have now partially resumed with police protection.
“We are operating around 200 buses to different cities of Maharashtra. The buses are plying in full strength in Miraj and Solapur region. We have also communicated with neighbouring state police to provide protection to our buses in bus stands. If the situation returns to normalcy, we will gradually operate on all the routes,” NWKRTC Managing Director Bharat Selvan told South First.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, too, is yet to resume full-strength operations to Karnataka.
Shah to meet Maharashtra and Karnataka CMs
A delegation of parliamentarians of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVS) met Union Home Minister Amit Shah over the escalating Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute in Delhi on Friday.
Speaking to the reporters, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Shirur MP Amol Kolhe said, “To de-escalate tensions on the border between the two states, Union Minister Shah will meet the chief ministers of Karnataka and Maharashtra on 14 December.”
During the meeting, the MVA delegation told Shah that the border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka had reached a stage where it could erupt into full-blown violence.
In Bengaluru, however, senior minister Govind Karjol was unaware of the proposed meeting.
“We have no information on the meeting. The State Reorganisation Act, 1956, applies to both the states. The border dispute is a closed chapter for Karnataka,” Karjol said.
“As per the ancient inscriptions, Karnataka was spread from Kaveri River to Godavari River. Let them leave all the surrounding area of Godavari River, which flows in the north-western Maharashtra, to Karnataka. We can claim rights in these areas, but we respect the State Reorganisation Act. Even Maharashtra has to abide by it,” Karjol told South First.