The tussle over the election of Maharashtra Assembly Speaker
Polity & Governance
3rd Jan, 2022
Recently, instances of vandalism were observed between Kannada and Marathi groups in the border regions of both the states. The dispute is over the sovereignty of the border areas as the inhabitants of various linguistic identities are found in both the regions.
- The dispute is over the areas of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad and Uttara Kannada.
- Both the states claim the areas to be part of their state due to the Maratha or Kannada linguistic identity of the people.
- However, the dispute lies over how many people belong to which linguistic identity.
- Various reports have given conflicting data and recommendations and thus the conflict continues.
In this background the dispute over the regions continue which impacts social and economic growth of the region.
The key disputed regions-
The disputed regions majorly include in state of Karnataka and some in Maharashtra. The key regions are-
- Regions in Karnataka- These include areas of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad and Uttara Kannada.
- Regions in Maharashtra- These include villages in Sangli district of Maharashtra.
Why is the conflict occurring?
The conflict is mostly over the numbers of people of different linguistic origin. It can be seen in the following chronology-
- Colonial era-
- In the colonial era, several districts that are now part of Karnataka were under the erstwhile Bombay Presidency. These areas include Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad and Uttara Kannada. This status quo continued until 1956.
- States Reorganization Act 1956-
- Under the act, Belagavi and 10 taluks of the Bombay Presidency were merged with the Mysore state, which was later renamed Karnataka in 1973. The decision was based on an 1881 census that identified 64.39 per cent of the population of Belagavi as Kannada-speaking and 26.04 per cent as Marathi-speaking. However, Marathi speaking population of the region rejected the 1881 census data as they claimed that they now outnumbered Kannada speakers.
- Maharashtra invoked Section 21(2) (b) of the ‘States Reorganization Act’ in 1957 to raise an objection to Marathi and Konkani-speaking regions being added to Karnataka. It claimed an area of 2,806 square miles in 814 villages and the three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani, on the grounds of continuity, linguistic majority and ‘people’s wishes’.
States Reorganization Act 1956-
- The act leads to reorganization of Indian states on the basis of linguistic identity and administrative convenience. It divided India into 14 states and six Union Territories. It was framed on the basis of report Pant commission.
- Mahajan Commission-
- It was set up by the union government in 1966 to look into the border disputes and claims between Karnataka and Maharashtra. The report was tabled in Parliament in 1972. It granted 264 villages to Maharashtra and 247 villages to Karnataka. The commission granted Belagavi or Belgaum to Karnataka.
- While the report was accepted by Karnataka, the state of Maharashtra rejected it. The report is yet to be implemented by the Union government.
- Judiciary intervention-
- In 2004, the Maharashtra government approached the Supreme Court seeking a settlement of the dispute under Article 131(b) of the Constitution — which gives the top court original jurisdiction in disputes between states, or states and the Centre — claiming 814 villages from Karnataka. The case is still pending before the apex court.
Impact of the conflict-
The delayed resolution of the territorial conflict has led to several impacts on the people of the regions and the country as a whole. The impacts are-
- Socio-economic impact-
- The acts of vandalism and regular conflicts impacts continued investment and prosperity of the regions thus impacting their economic growth and prosperity.
- The conflict over these issues creates a division among people along linguistic identity and impacts long term relations.
- Political issues-
- The unresolved issues give a chance to the political parties to misuse these issues to raise communal tensions for the vote bank.
- Security issues-
- There is possibility that such issues are being used by antisocial elements to create violence and other antisocial activities
Challenges in resolving the dispute-
As territorial disputes also have an emotional impact on the lives of the people, the following challenges are observed in resolution of the dispute-
- Lack of consensus –
- There is a lack of consensus between the states over the recommendations of 1956 Act and Mahajan report. And the matter is still pending in the judiciary.
- Political issue-
- Language is a key factor in the Indian democratic set up, thus the border issue become more of a political issue than being a territorial dispute.
- The slow implementation of projects in dry areas of Sangli in Maharashtra is also being used as a reason of mobilizing people’s support.
- While Maharashtra has demanded for the inclusion of certain areas in its territory, Karnataka is also demanding inclusion of Kannada speaking areas of Maharashtra in its territory.
- Importance of the region-
- Many areas have huge economic significance for the states. Like Belgaum is a source of vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, mining production, and wood (due to heavy rainfall and the abundance of water).
- Slow response by the union government and judiciary
- The Mahajan commission was tabled in 1972 in Parliament but still it has not been implemented by the central government.
- Maharashtra government has approached the Supreme Court in 2004 under Article 131(b) of the Constitution seeking a settlement of the dispute, but the matter has not been taken up by the judiciary.
Article 131 of the Constitution of India
Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, to the exclusion of any other court, have original jurisdiction in any dispute—
- between the Government of India and one or more States; or
- between the Government of India and any State or States on one side and one or more other States on the other; or
- between two or more States, if and in so far as the dispute involves any question (whether of law or fact) on which the existence or extent of a legal right depends:
Provided that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to a dispute arising out of any treaty, agreement, covenant, engagement, sanad or other similar instrument which, having been entered into or executed before the commencement of this Constitution, continues in operation after such commencement, or which provides that the said jurisdiction shall not extend to such a dispute
Path to resolve the conflict
As the benefit of people is the key desired outcome of a political state, the following steps can be taken to resolve the issue-
- Updated data- There is need to update data of Marathi and Kannada speakers so that actual demographic condition of the disputed region can be assessed.
- Need of judicial interference-
- Supreme Court should take up matter at the earliest and a judiciary monitored committee can be appointed to reassess the key demands and give suggestions.
- Judiciary should take relevant steps in the meantime to take action against antisocial elements for inciting violence in the area.
- Focus on prevention of dispute: Further, there is need of self-restrain among the political parties and they should prevent misuse of territorial dispute for narrow political gains.
- People awareness and understanding: Further, people should understand that in the present era of diversity, human and socio-economic development should be prominent as against territorial disputes.
There is a need to understand border issues have short term and long term impact on the people and the society as whole. Thus timely and consensual resolution is the key.