Maharashtra, Karnataka leaders speak on phone as Belagavi border row escalates
Chief ministers of both states spoke over the phone and agreed to maintain peace and order on either side of the border.
Tensions continue to simmer at the Maharashtra-Karnataka border district of Belgavi, prompting Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) to cite a police advisory to suspend bus services to the southern state and a series of phone calls between leaders of both states.
As the situation became volatile, a Maharashtra ministerial delegation's proposed visit to Belagavi in Karnataka did not materialise on Tuesday. However, late Tuesday evening, chief ministers of both states spoke over the phone and agreed to maintain peace and order on either side of the border.
Besides this, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis too reached out to Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai after vehicles from Maharashtra crossing into the adjoining state faced stone-pelting.
Maharashtra Ministers Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai, who had been appointed to deal with the border dispute with Karnataka, faced the Opposition's wrath and were dubbed as cowards for cancelling their proposed visit to Belagavi earlier in the day. The ministers were scheduled to meet Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES) activists at Belagavi in Karnataka and discuss the decades-old border issue. To note, MES has been campaigning to merge Belagavi and some other border areas with Maharashtra.
The ministers' decision to cancel their proposed visit came a day after Bommai cited a law and order issue over their presence in Belagavi. In fact, ahead of the proposed visit of the delegation, prohibitory orders were clamped in the border district.
MSRTC Bus Services Suspended
MSRTC cited a police advisor to suspend bus services to Karnataka on Tuesday afternoon. MSRTC Vice-Chairman and Managing Director Shekhar Channe told the news agency Press Trust of India that the decision was taken to ensure passengers' safety and to avoid property damage.
Fadnavis blamed Karnataka for creating needless controversy over the border row. The Maharashtra government appointed two ministers last month to coordinate with the legal team regarding the court case over the boundary issue.
Even as tensions simmered, a video emerged on social media that showed some people pelting stones at vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra near a toll booth in Belagavi district's Hirebaugwadi.
During his phone call with Bommai, Fadnavis reportedly expressed his disappointment over the Hirebaugwadi incident. The former assured Fadnavis that strict action would be taken against those involved and that proper protection would be given to vehicles entering Karnataka from Maharashtra.
Fadnavis later said that he would take up the matter with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, stating that such incidents keep taking place between the two states and that the Constitution allows the free movement of people in the country.
No Change in Karnataka's Stand
Karnataka Chief Minister Bommai, meanwhile, asserted that there was no change in his state's stand on the border issue.
While noting that there should be peace and law and order in both states, Bommai said there is no change in Karnataka's stand as far as the border is concerned.
The legal battle will be pursued in the Supreme Court, Bommai added.
The Border Issue
The Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue dates back to 1957 after the reorganisation of states on linguistic lines.
Maharashtra staked claim to Belagavi, which has a sizable Marathi-speaking population and was part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency. It also laid claim to 814 Marathi-speaking villages, which are currently part of Karnataka. However, the southern state considers as final the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the States Reorganisation Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report.