In depth: What is the Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute?
You must have read several articles on how different countries fight over the demarcation of borders. Many nations squabble over the regions which they think belong to them and not their neighbours and many times the dispute escalates into a war too. But within a country itself, there are states who dispute over borders. In India, Maharashtra and Karnataka are two such states. The two neighbours have been in verbal war for decades over a number of villages which they contend that belong to them.
The State Reorganisation Act
The dispute started after the reorganisation of states along linguistic and administrative lines in 1956. The erstwhile Bombay Presidency (which later became Maharashtra) included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi (Belgaum), Dharwad, and Uttara Kannada.
The reorganisation history
Though in 1948 the Belgaum municipality requested that the district be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956 made Belgaum and 10 talukas of Bombay State a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973). The Belgaum municipality had a predominantly Marathi-speaking population. Mostly, the Reorganisation of States Commission demarcated the regions and villages along the border based on the language spoken by the natives. So if the people predominantly spoke Kannada, the villages went to Karnataka and if they spoke Marathi, the villages went to Maharashtra. This way Belgaum and other villages went to Karnataka under the Act.
The people who opposed the region’s inclusion in Mysore (later Karnataka) have maintained that in 1956, Marathi-speakers outnumbered Kannada-speakers in those areas which were included in Karnataka. Maharashtra has staked claim to over 7,000 sq km area along its border with Karnataka, comprising 814 villages in the districts of Belagavi (Belgaum), Uttara Kannada, Bidar, and Gulbarga, and the towns of Belagavi, Karwar, and Nippani. Maharashtra contends that all these areas are predominantly Marathi-speaking, and Maharashtra wants them to be merged with the state.
The Mahajan Commission
After the dispute between the states escalated, the Union government set up a commission led by former Chief Justice of India Mehr Chand Mahajan to look into the issue in October 1966. The Mahajan Commission submitted its report in August 1967 and recommended that 264 villages should be transferred to Maharashtra, and that Belgaum and 247 villages should remain with Karnataka. Maharashtra of course, rejected the report while Karnataka welcomed it. However, the Union government never implemented the recommendations of the report.
The present situation
Different political parties have been raking up this issue for their benefit from time to time. Both Maharashtra and Karnataka raise this issue during elections. Every Maharashtrian political party includes this issue in its election manifesto. Recently, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray again raised this issue in the state Assembly and even appointed Ministers Chaggan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as coordinators to oversee the government’s efforts to expedite the case related to the boundary issue with Karnataka. Karnataka continues to oppose these allegations.