Karnataka-Maharashtra Border Dispute Allegedly Leads to Violence at College Fest

A student in Belagavi was allegedly beaten up after raising a Karnataka flag. However, police say the reasons behind the violence are not clear.

New Delhi: The Karnataka-Maharashtra border dispute became an issue at a college festival in Belagavi recently, when a student was allegedly beaten up after raising a Karnataka flag. This has led to protests by pro-Karnataka groups in the district.

Tensions have been high in Belagavi, the epicentre of the border disputes between the two states. The border dispute dates back to the 1960s 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 a number of Marathi-speaking villages which are currently part of Karnataka. On its part, as an assertion that Belagavi is an integral part of the state, Karnataka has built the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha, modelled on the Vidhana Soudha, the state secretariat in Bengaluru, and a legislature session is held here once a year.

Recently, a video went viral showing a student of Gogte College of Commerce in Belagavi allegedly being beaten up by other students after he waved the Karnataka flag. However, the Indian Express reported that the police have no clarity over why exactly the violence took place. “It appears that it was an issue involving students trampling over each other’s foot while grooving to the music, which might have also caused the confrontation. We will get clarity once we complete an investigation,” a police official was quoted as saying.

However, NDTV reported that the assaulted student – a minor who is in second year of pre-university (Class 12) – was told by the police that he should not have stoked the controversy by waving the flag at a time when the border row has intensified.

Kannada Rakshana Vedike (KRV), a pro-Karnataka group, believes that he was beaten up because he was waving the Karnataka flag. Deepak Gudaga, a member of KRV, told Indian Express, “Shreyas was beaten up by students of other linguistic groups just for waving the Kannada flag. Moreover, many colleges in Belagavi are dominated by Marathi-speaking people. There have been similar incidents reported in the past where Kannada culture and Kannadigas were insulted.”

“It is very unbecoming of senior police officers to thrash a young boy who came to the police station to register a complaint. We will continue to protest until the perpetrators are punished,” he added.