The Belagavi (Belgaum) police clamped prohibitory orders under Section 35 of the Karnataka police act, in order to impede Shiv Sena activists from entering the city. The police were forced to implement the ban after several Shiv Sena leaders created a ruckus in Belagavi openly threatening to remove the Karnataka flag hoisted atop the corporation building and hoist a saffron colour party flag instead.
The protest which was carried out by Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), the outfit which has always claimed that Belagavi belongs to Maharashtra and not Karnataka, and Shiv Sena leaders, was also joined by several pro-Maharashtra outfits and a large number of Shiv Sena activists from Kohlapur who gathered in front of Belagavi City Corporation (BCC) and raised slogans, demanding the removal of the flag.
Speaking about the decision to impose the prohibitory orders, Police commissioner Dr K Tyagrajan said that the action was taken as a precautionary measure to maintain law and order in the city as Shiv Sena leader Vijay Dhavane had plans of delivering a provocative speech at Belagavi, which would have disrupted the linguistic harmony in the city.
Owing to this, Belagavi police had made elaborate security arrangement in and around the Belagavi City Corporation (BCC) campus and other sensitive spots in the city.
Despite the orders being in place, Shiv Sena activists-led by Vijay Dhavane tried to forcefully make their way into Belagavi through the Karnataka border near Shinoli village. This led to a confrontation between the Shiv Sena activists and the Belagavi police in the Kohlapur district around 20 km away from the city of Belagavi.
Shiv Sena protests in Belagavi over removal of Shivaji statue
This is, however, not the first time Shiv Sena activists have created a ruckus in the city. Last year, Shiv Sena party workers had staged a protest against with effigies of Karnataka CM Yediyurappa over the removal of a Shivaji statue in Belgaum’s Mangutti village.
Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray likens Belagavi to PoK
Earlier, Maharashtra CM and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has often raked up the border issue in the name of Marathi language and culture, had also stirred a controversy after likening Belagavi to ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’ (PoK).
On December 20, in a bizarre comment, Uddhav Thackeray said: “Like PoK, there was a Karnataka-occupied Maharashtra. People in Belgaum are not only Hindus but also Marathi-speaking people and wanted to be part of Maharashtra. However, they are facing oppression from the BJP-led government in Karnataka. Even for speaking the truth, the Belgaum mayor was booked for treason,” he said in the Assembly”. The Maharashtra Chief Minister made the Karnataka comment while referring to the Citizenship Amendment Act.
The Karnataka-Maharashtra border issue
The Karnataka-Maharashtra border issues go back to as many as 50 years. It involves a set of more than 800 villages along with Belagavi district being claimed by Maharashtra as a part of the state on linguistic grounds. Actually, Belagavi district, which was previously a part of the Bombay presidency was given to Karnataka after independence.
While several Maharashtra leaders including Senapati Bapat have fought to regain Belgaum, a government-appointed commission formed in October 1966, named Mahajan Commission under former Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan had in August 1967 awarded Maharashtra 264 villages including Nandagad, Nippani Khanapur, but let Karnataka keep Belagavi (Belgaum), while Kasargod went to Kerala.
Though the then Maharashtra government vociferously rejected the recommendations terming it biased and illogical, the state of Karnataka accepted it and wanted it to be implemented. However, the matter remained unresolved as the Central Government left it open.
Later in 2005, the Maharashtra government filed a petition in the Supreme Court staking claim over Belgaum. The Supreme Court began its hearing on Maharashtra’s petition on 17 January 2007 and is still being heard in the apex court.
Last year after the Maha Vikas Aghadi government was formed in Maharashtra, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray appointed ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as coordinators to oversee the state’s efforts to expedite the case related to the border dispute.