North Western Karnataka Road Transportation Corporation (NWKRTC) stopped bus services to Maharashtra from the evening of Wednesday, 7 December, after members of the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) defaced many Karnataka buses parked in Pune’s Swargate bus-stand at midnight on Tuesday.
The Shiv Sena members not only smeared black paint on the Karnataka buses but also painted “Jai Maharashtra” on the passenger vehicles.
The buses were defaced in retaliation to the vandalisation of Maharashtra-registered vehicles by pro-Karnataka activists at the Hire-Bagewadi Toll Plaza in Belagavi on Tuesday.
“As the Karnataka buses were attacked in Pune and the situation has remained tense in Maharashtra over the border dispute, we have stopped the bus services from all the divisions of the NWKRTC to the neighbouring state with immediate effect. The bus services will resume only after the situation returns to normalcy,” NWKRTC Managing Director Bharat Selvan told South First.
This is the first time bus services between the two states were hampered since the border dispute came to the fore.
The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) has already suspended its bus services to Karnataka for the past 48 hours.
Border dispute reaches Parliament
While the protests on both sides of the border have intensified, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Baramati MP Supriya Sule sought the intervention of the Union Home Ministry on the Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute on the first day of the winter session of Parliament on Wednesday.
Slamming Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Sule said, “A new issue has cropped up in Maharashtra for the past 10 days. The Karnataka chief minister has been speaking baloney. The people of my state wanted to go to Karnataka but they are being mistreated.”
She added: “A plot against Maharashtra has been going on for the past few days. The Karnataka chief minister is making statements on bringing down Maharashtra. The BJP is in power in both states. The people of Maharashtra were beaten up during a protest in Belagavi on Tuesday. This can’t be allowed. This is one country. I urge Home Minister Amit Shah to intervene in the matter.”
‘Declare Belagavi a Union Territory’
Shiva Sena (UBT) Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut also chimed in on the issue.
He demanded that Belagavi — which is currently a district in Karnataka that was formerly named Belgaum — be declared a Union Territory until the issue was resolved.
He also held the Union government responsible for the protests staged by pro-Karnataka activists against the Maharashtra government.
“The incidents of violence in Belagavi cannot take place without ‘Delhi’s support’,” he said. referring to the BJP-led Union government.
He also condemned the arrest of the members of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) in Belagavi.
Fadnavis meets Amit Shah
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis called on Shah in New Delhi on Wednesday and apprised him of developments related to the border dispute with Karnataka.
Fadnavis is the state’s former chief minister and one of its top BJP leaders.
“Shah patiently heard Fadnavis’ views on Maharashtra’s stand on the nearly seven-decade-old boundary dispute,” said the latter’s office.
“Fadnavis also told Shah that he had a telephonic conversation with the Karnataka chief minister on escalating tensions in the border areas over the past few days,” it added.
Will not dance to Siddaramaiah’s tunes: BJP
Karnataka Water Resources Minister Govind Karjol, who is also the Belagavi district in-charge minister, said, “A situation has not yet arisen to chair an all-party meeting to discuss the interstate border dispute. The state government will handle the case legally.”
He added: “The BJP is not ready to dance to the tunes of Siddaramaiah. We will not do any politics on the matter. We know when to call for an all-party meeting. We are in the government and such a situation has not yet come and there is no need for it now.”
Congress leader and former Karnataka chief minister Siddarmaiah recently asked why Bommai was not calling an all-party meeting to discuss the border dispute as the issue intensified.
On Maharashtra ministerial delegation reportedly still planning to visit the Belagavi district, Karjol said, “We sent them a subtle message a couple of days ago. We had also sent a letter to the Maharashtra government through our Chief Secretary. If they come, the law and order might get affected. We have to understand that we are working in a federal setup.”
Stating that the Bommai-led Karnataka government was not serious enough about handling the border dispute, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) communications chairman and Chittapur MLA Priyank Kharge pointed out, “The interstate border issue has intensified on both sides, but the Karnataka government is not ready to call for an all-party meeting.”
He told South First: “We (the Congress) have openly announced our support to the government on the matter. They should be thanking us for standing with them. It is unfortunate that senior ministers like Karjol are making such statements.”
Karnataka Police tighten security
With protests related to the border dispute on the rise, the police in Karnataka have tightened security by deploying police personnel at the interstate check posts and in the border villages.
“The situation is under control and there is no threat to law and order in border areas,” Inspector General of Police, Northern Range (Belagavi) N Satish Kumar told South First.
“We have intensified patrolling and tightened security. We are putting all the efforts to ensure that the law and order is in place in the region,” he added.