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Belagavi Border Dispute
- 28 Dec 2021
- 9 min read
For Prelims: SK Dhar committee, JVP Committee, Mahajan Committee, State Reorganization Act.
For Mains: Reorganization of States in India and related disputes.
Why in News
The decades-old dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra over the Belagavi or as Maharashtra likes to call it the Belgaum district, is back in the headlines.
- Belgaum or Belagavi is currently part of Karnataka but is claimed by Maharashtra.
- In 1957, slighted by the implementation of the States Reorganisation Act, 1956, Maharashtra demanded readjustment of its border with Karnataka.
- Maharashtra invoked Section 21 (2) (b) of the Act and submitted a memorandum to the Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi- speaking areas being added to Karnataka.
- It claimed an area of 2,806 square miles that involved 814 villages, and three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani with a total population of about 6.7 lakh, all part of the Mumbai Presidency before independence.
- The villages are spread across Belagavi and Uttar Kannada in north-western Karnataka, and Bidar and Gulbarga districts in north-eastern Karnataka — all bordering Maharashtra.
- Later, when a four-member committee was formed by both States, Maharashtra expressed willingness to transfer predominantly Kannada-speaking 260 villages with a population of about 3.25 lakh and total area of 1,160 square miles.
- This was in lieu of accepting its demand for 814 villages and three urban settlements, which was turned down by Karnataka.
- Basis of Maharashtra’s Claim:
- Maharashtra’s claim to seek the readjustment of its border was on the basis of contiguity, relative linguistic majority and wishes of the people. If the claim over Belagavi and surrounding areas was based on Marathi-speaking people and linguistic homogeneity, it laid its claim over Karwar and Supa where Konkani is spoken by citing Konkani as a dialect of Marathi.
- Its argument was based on the theory of villages being the unit for calculation and enumerated linguistic population in each village. Maharashtra also points out the historical fact that the revenue records in these Marathi-speaking areas are also kept in Marathi.
- Karnataka’s Position:
- Karnataka has argued that the settlement of boundaries as per the States Reorganisation Act is final.
- The boundary of the State was neither tentative nor flexible. The State argues that the issue would reopen border issues that have not been contemplated under the Act, and that such a demand should not be permitted.
- Steps Taken to Resolve the Issue:
- In 1960, both States agreed to set up a four-man committee with two representatives from each State. Except on the issue of contiguity, the committee could not arrive at a unanimous decision.
- Between the 1960s and 1980s, chief ministers of Karnataka and Maharashtra have met several times to find a solution to the vexed issue but with no avail.
- Response of Union Government:
- The central government constituted the Mahajan Committee in 1966 to assess the situation. Representatives from both sides, Maharashtra and the then Mysore state were part of the committee.
- In 1967, the committee recommended that some villages in Karwar, Haliyal and Suparna talukas of Karnataka be given to Maharashtra but left Belagavi with the southern state.
- Response of the Supreme Court:
- In 2006, the Supreme Court held that the issue should be resolved through mutual negotiation and that linguistic criterion should not be considered as it may create more practical problems.
- The case is still being heard by the Supreme Court.
- Other Border Disputes between Different States:
Reorganization of States in India
- At the time of independence in 1947, India consisted of nearly 550 disjointed princely states.
- In 1950, the Constitution contained a four-fold classification of the states of the Indian Union—Part A, Part B, Part C and Part D States.
- Part-A states comprised nine erstwhile governor’s provinces of British India.
- Part-B states consisted of nine erstwhile princely states with legislatures.
- Part-C states consisted of the erstwhile chief commissioner’s province of British India and some of the erstwhile princely states.
- Part-D state comprised the Andaman and Nicobar Islands only.
- The grouping of states at the time was done on the basis of political and historical considerations rather than on linguistic or cultural divisions, but this was a temporary arrangement.
- On account of the multilingual nature and differences that existed between various states, there was a need for the states to be reorganized on a permanent basis.
- In this context, in 1948, SK Dhar committee - was appointed by the government to look into the need for the reorganization of states on a linguistic basis.
- The Commission preferred reorganisation of states on the basis of administrative convenience including historical and geographical considerations instead of on linguistic lines.
- This created much resentment and led to the appointment of another Linguistic Provinces Committee.
- In December 1948, the JVP Committee comprising Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh Bhai Patel and Pattabhi Sitaramayya was formed to study the issue.
- The Committee, in its report submitted in April 1949, rejected the idea of reorganisation of states on a linguistic basis but said that the issue could be looked at afresh in the light of public demand.
- However, due to protests, in October 1953, the Government of India created the first linguistic state, known as Andhra state, by separating the Telugu speaking areas from the Madras state.
- On 22nd December 1953, Jawaharlal Nehru appointed a commission under Fazl Ali to consider the reorganisation of states.
- The commission submitted its report in 1955 and it suggested that the whole country be divided into 16 states and three centrally administered areas.
- The government, while not agreeing with the recommendations entirely, divided the country into 14 states and 6 union territories under the States Reorganisation Act that was passed in November 1956.
- Even after the large-scale reorganization of the states in 1956, the political map of India underwent continuous changes due to the pressure of popular agitations and political conditions.
- On 5th August 2019, President of India in the exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 370 of the Constitution had issued the Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 2019.
- This divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two new Union Territories (UTs): Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh.
- Recently, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu (Merger of Union Territories) Act, 2019 has merged the Union Territories (UTs) of Daman and Diu (D&D) and Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH).
- Presently, India comprises 28 states and 8 union territories.