Border Dispute: Maharashtra Vehicles Attacked While Entering Karnataka; CMs Discuss Maintaining Peace

Vehicles with Maharashtra number plates were attacked with stones near the Hirebagewadi area near Belagavi on Tuesday afternoon.

New Delhi: A Maharashtra ministerial delegation’s proposed visit to Belagavi in Karnataka did not materialise on Tuesday amid simmering tension over the boundary row, while transport corporation MSRTC suspended bus services to the southern state citing a police advisory.

Amid the raging border dispute between the two states, the Karnataka and Maharashtra chief ministers spoke to each other over the phone on Tuesday night and agreed that there should be peace and law and order should be maintained on both sides.

In a related development, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis spoke to Karnataka chief minister Basavaraj Bommai over stone pelting on vehicles from Maharashtra entering the adjoining state and said he will also take up the matter with the Centre.

According to the Indian Express, vehicles with Maharashtra number plates were attacked with stones near the Hirebagewadi area near Belagavi on Tuesday afternoon. Several people were detained by the police because of the violence.

Maharashtra ministers Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai, appointed for coordinating the state’s border dispute with Karnataka, were slated to visit Belagavi district earlier in the day, but the tour did not materialise, leading to angry reaction from Opposition parties who dubbed them as “cowards”.

The two ministers were scheduled to meet activists of the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) at Belagavi in Karnataka and hold talks with them on the decades-old border issue. MES is an organisation fighting for the merger of Belagavi and some other border areas with Maharashtra.

The development came a day after Bommai said he will ask his Maharashtra counterpart Eknath Shinde to not to depute his cabinet colleagues – Patil and Desai – to Belagavi as planned citing law and order, even as prohibitory orders were clamped in the border district ahead of the proposed visit of the delegation.

The Maharashtra State Transport Corporation (MSRTC) on Tuesday afternoon suspended bus services to Karnataka citing a police advisory, a top official said. MSRTC Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Shekhar Channe told PTI the decision was taken considering the safety of passengers travelling to Karnataka and to avoid damage to their property.

Fadnavis spoke to Bommai over stone pelting on vehicles from Maharashtra entering the southern state and said he will also take up the matter with the Centre. He blamed Karnataka for creating needless controversy over the border row after the Maharashtra government last month appointed two ministers to coordinate with the legal team regarding the court case on the decades-old boundary dispute between the two states.

In the backdrop of rising tension between the two states over the border row, a video surfaced on social media showing some people throwing stones at vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra near a toll booth at Hirebaugwadi in Belagavi district of the adjoining state.

Speaking to reporters later in the day, Fadnavis said, “I am going to inform Union home minister Amit Shah about today’s incident as well. It is not a good thing if such incidents keep taking place between the two states.”

The deputy CM, who also handles the home portfolio, said the Constitution allows free movement of people in the country. “The Constitution has empowered everyone to travel from one state to another, start a business or to live anywhere. If this fundamental right is being trampled upon, then the state in question should stop such incidents,” he said.

In Bengaluru, Karnataka chief minister Bommai tweeted about his conversation with his Maharashtra counterpart Shinde, but asserted there was no change in his state’s stand as far as the border issue is concerned. “Maharashtra Chief Minister Shri Eknath Shinde had a telephonic discussion with me, we both agreed that there should be peace and law and order to be maintained in both the states,” Bommai said in the tweet.

Noting that there are harmonious relations between the people of both the states, he said, “however there is no change in our stand as far as Karnataka border is concerned. And the legal battle will be pursued in the Supreme Court.”

In Mumbai, the Eknath Shinde-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government faced the Opposition fire over Maharashtra ministers Patil and Desai not visiting Belagavi as planned earlier. Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut called Patil and Desai as “cowards” . He also dubbed the Shinde-BJP government as “weak and helpless”.

Talking to reporters here, Raut, a key leader of the Uddhav Thackeray faction, said Shiv Sena has been giving a befitting reply since the border dispute with Karnataka erupted decades ago. “Where is the chief minister who says he also faced lathis in Belgaum (Belagavi)? If you have faced lathis, you would not have watched the insult meted out to Maharashtra by Karnataka from the chair you are now occupying,” Raut said.

NCP president Sharad Pawar blamed Karnataka chief minister Bommai for the “worrisome” situation in the border areas and warned the state’s “patience” will take a different turn if attacks on vehicles entering the southern state from Maharashtra are not stopped in 24 hours. He said the Karnataka government and the Centre will be responsible if the law and order deteriorates.

Pawar said the time has come to take a stand in view of the situation prevailing in the areas on the Maharashtra-Karnataka border. “Maharashtra has taken a stand of observing patience and it is still ready to do that. But even that has a limit. In 24 hours, if the attacks on vehicles are not stopped then this patience will take a different path and the responsibility will be completely on the Karnataka chief minister and the Karnataka government,” Pawar told reporters in Mumbai.

In Pune city, activists of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction sprayed black and orange paints on at least three Karnataka state transport buses in the Swargate area. They also wrote “Jai Maharashtra” on these buses.

The border issue dates back to 1957 after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines. Maharashtra laid claim to Belagavi, which was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency as it has a sizeable Marathi-speaking population. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of the southern state. Karnataka, however, considers the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report as final.

(With PTI inputs)