Tensions prevailed in Belagavi’s HireBagewadi Toll Plaza, between Belagavi and Dharwad, as hundreds of Karnataka activists gathered to stage a protest against the Maharashtra government for raking up the interstate border dispute.
Protesting against the scheduled visit of two Maharashtra ministers — Chandrakanth Patil and Shamburaj Desai — to Karnataka’s Belagavi on Tuesday, 6 December, the Kannada activists turned-up in large numbers to Belagavi.
Most of them were affiliated to the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike (KRV).
However, after the BJP high command intervened, the Maharashtra border in-charge ministers called off their visit to Belagavi, claimed reliable sources.
The ministers, however, insisted that they had only postponed their visit.
Hundreds detained; unrest reported
After the Belagavi police prevented the Kannada activists from entering Belagavi City, the members of the KRV staged a protest at the HireBagewadi Toll Plaza.
The activists displayed their anguish against the Maharashtra government by vandalising vehicles bearing Maharashtra registration numbers, and that too apparently in the presence of hundreds of police personnel.
Pro-Karnataka activists are also said to have climbed atop lorries and other vehicles from Maharashtra and waved Karnataka flags. As the protest was turning violent, the police were forced to cane the activists.
The Belagavi police detained 400 pro-Karnataka activists protesting at the toll plaza. Police sources said the activists were later released.
“It is the Maharashtra government that is raking up the interstate border dispute. It has filed a petition in the Supreme Court on the matter. The Maharashtra government has to remain quiet until the border dispute is resolved at the apex court,” KRV president Narayan Gowda told reporters in Belagavi on Tuesday.
“The border in-charge ministers of Maharashtra keep threatening Karnataka by announcing that they will visit Belagavi. These ministers are a black mark on the federal system,” fumed Karnatka minister Narayana Gowda.
On the police preventing them from entering Belagavi city, Gowda said, “The entry is restricted for Maharashtra ministers but not for Kannadigas. We will hoist thousands of Karnataka flags and will display our strength at this border district.”
He said: “If cops halt us, we will launch protests across the state. Why are the police preventing us from visiting Belagavi City?”
Countering the protests launched by the Karnataka activists, members of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) submitted a memorandum to Belagavi Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Patil on Tuesday.
“The Karnataka government is violating the laws of the Constitution of India by restricting Maharashtra border in-charge ministers from visiting Belagavi. The elected members of Maharashtra have every right to visit this border district. The government has to take appropriate decisions on allowing neighbouring state ministers to Belagavi,” urged members of MES in their memorandum to the Belagavi DC.
The city police detained the members of the MES as well. However, they were also released later.
“We have not allowed any organisation to stage protests on the border dispute in the city. The Karnataka activists vandalised Maharashtra vehicles during the protest. Around 800 activists turned up for the protest at the toll plaza. We detained over 400 people during the protest. Daily life has not been affected in any part of the city,” Belagavi City Police Commissioner M B Boralingaiah told South First.
BJP central leadership in the mix
The border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra — both states where the BJP is in power — is said to have led to the central leadership of the saffron party to intervene.
As the Maharashtra government border in-charge ministers were gearing up to visit Belagavi city, the Basavaraj Bommai-led-Karnataka government approached the BJP high command to tackle the issue.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is also said to have spoken to BJP national president and Rajya Sabha member JP Nadda in New Delhi on Tuesday, leading to the ministers’ visit to be cancelled, sources said.
It may also be noted that Karnataka’s BJP unit complained against Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who holds the Home Affairs portfolio, for escalating and making provocative statements on the interstate border dispute.
Following the complaint, the party high command gave strict orders to Fadnavis not to make such statements on the matter.
Sharad Pawar warns Karnataka
Breaking his silence on the ongoing Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute and responding to the agitations against the Maharashtra government in Belagavi on Tuesday, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar said, “One must not test our (Maharashtra’s) patience and should not go in the wrong direction.”
The NCP is the Congress’ alliance partner in Maharashtra, and Pawar has been the chief minister of the state four times.
“Despite Shinde’s conversation with the Karnataka chief minister, he has not shown any softness on the issue. Shinde must take all the parties into confidence before taking any decision on the interstate border dispute,” Pawar told ANI.
He further said, “The Parliament session is about to begin, I request all Maharashtra MPs to come together and take a stand” on the issue.
Fadnavis speaks to Bommai
Videos showing people throwing stones at vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra prompted Fadnavis to take up the matter with Bommai on Tuesday, and extract an assurance on the protection of vehicles, according to PTI.
The video showed some people throwing stones at vehicles entering Karnataka from the Maharashtra side near a toll booth at Hirebaugwadi in the Belagavi district of Karnataka.
Sources close to the Maharashtra deputy chief minister said, “Fadnavis made a phone call to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai and expressed his disappointment over the Hirebaugwadi incident.”
They added: “The Karnataka chief minister assured Fadnavis of strong action against the perpetrators. He also assured Fadnavis that vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra would be given proper protection.”
SC to take up matter on 8 December
After two hearings on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute scheduled before a three-judge Constitution bench at the Supreme Court were postponed, the next hearing is likely to be on 8 December.
Maharashtra approached the apex court requesting it to take up the hearing on the interstate border dispute.
The first hearing was scheduled on 23 November. However, it was postponed due to various reasons.
The second hearing, which was scheduled on 30 November, was also postponed as the three-judge Constitution bench was busy with the hearing of another case.
“The Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute hearing is likely to be taken up by the apex court on 8 December. We are ready to fight the case,” said advocate MN Zirali, who is one of the members of the Karnataka legal team.
(With inputs from PTI)