The dispute over Belgaum/ Belagavi

The dispute over Belgaum/ Belagavi

Origin of the dispute:

  • The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Bijapur, Belgaum, Dharwar and Uttara-Kannada (previously North Kanara).
  • The Belagavi/Belgaum region at the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka comprises both Kannada and Marathi speakers.
  • In 1948, the Belgaum municipality requested that the district, having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population, be incorporated into the proposed Maharashtra state.
  • However, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which divided states on linguistic and administrative lines, made Belgaum a part of the then Mysore State (which was renamed Karnataka in 1973).
  • The area has been under dispute since then.
  • The Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, formed in 1948, has been fighting for a merger of 800-odd villages in Karnataka with Maharashtra.

Mahajan Commission:

  • The Maharashtra government contested the inclusion of Belgaum in Mysore state and lodged a protest with the Centre in 1957.
  • This led to the formation of the Mahajan Commission under former Chief Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan in 1966.
  • The Commission, which submitted its report in 1967, recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belgaum and 247 villages remain with Karnataka.
    • Note: The Commission also additionally stated that Sholapur in Maharashtra and Kasaragode, which is in Kerala, be given to Karnataka.
  • The report was rejected by Maharashtra and the State demanded another review on the issue.

Case to Supreme Court:

  • In 2007, the Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court. Maharashtra asked that 814 villages in Belgaum, Karwar, Bidar and Gulbarga districts in Karnataka be moved under their jurisdiction since it had a majority of Marathi speaking people.

Belgaum renamed as Belagavi:

  • To reiterate its claim over Belgaum, the Karnataka government in 2012 inaugurated a new Assembly building, called the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, and made it the designated location for the winter session of the legislative assembly.
  • In 2014, the Karnataka government renamed Belgaum as Belagavi.