This is the story of Belagavi which continues to face the onslaught of Marathi migrants and government after irresponsible government in Maharashtra which goes back on its own word and then encourages its residents to migrate to Karnataka and slowly "conquer" Karnataka, and helps rogue organizations such as MES create tension in Karnataka.
The Truth about Belagavi
If you go back to the days of Sangolli Rayanna who lived in Sangolli in Belagavi district, or to the post-independence days, Belagavi has had a Kannadiga majority. And yes, today's Sangli in Maharashtra was a Kannadiga district originally known as Sangolli.
As recent as in 1924, in the 39th Indian National Congress held at Belagavi and presided by M.K. Gandhi, it was reiterated that Belagavi belongs to the Mysore state. Time and again, several more sessions of the INC across the length and breadth of India have reiterated this fact.
For those who have forgotten or haven't noticed, the Mumbai State Assembly consented to handover Belagavi to Mysore during the first state re-organization in 1956 on the grounds of that being a Kannadiga-majority area.
Maharashtra's volte face on Mahajan Report
However, truth is weaker than politics, especially if the truth's politics is weaker than the lie's politics.
In 1966, yielding to pressure mounted by political forces from Maharashtra, the Centre requested Justice Mehr Chand Mahajan to form a commission and recommend an amicable solution to what Maharashtra had started terming as the "border problem". The commission's decisions were made with four primary principles in mind:
- Protecting and Strengthening the nation's unity and integrity
- Keeping people of same language & culture together under one governance
- Considering financial, commerical & administerial feasibility
- Success of national programs and the effect of re-organisation on them.
Why? Because when you lose the game, you want to change the rules of the game. As per the Mahajan report, while quite a few villages were transferred to Maharashtra on the basis of linguistic majority, the town and the taluk of Belagavi were retained in Karnataka. This pricked the ego of some chauvinistic Marathi bodies like the MES (which incidentally finds enough ridicule in the report) which have unfortunately (but not surprisingly in this age where the better politician is the better divider) held enough sway on the politicians of Maharashtra. All these have basically led to the current scene of contention over the Belagavi district of Karnataka. Owing to this the Mahajan commission is pending implementation even after 4 decades!
Before we leave this topic, yes, Kasargod will be transferred to Karnataka as per the recommendations of the Mahajan Report. So much for those who claim that Karnataka is playing a double-game. Nope. We play one and only one game. The game where (we're told) truth alone wins.
What we got in return for entertaining migration of Marathis
Migration of Marathi speakers to Belagavi has exponentially increased from the days of the Mahajan Report up to now. Karnataka is today the top destination for Marathis who wish to leave Maharashtra to find a better life. However, as is common in any area on the border between two linguistic states, migrant Marathi speakers from across the border have always lived together with the Kannadigas and become one with them. There have been a host of facilities and benefits that Marathi migrants have been receiving inside Belagavi which they found lacking in their own state - for e.g., educational institutions, various government bodies, basic supplies, and most importantly the supply of electricity.
But what has Karnataka got in return for this royal treatment of Marathi migrants? Unrest and tension due to chauvinistic groups such as the MES, and yeah lots, lots, lots of water. So much water that many, many Kannadigas and Marathis have drowned and died in it! We're referring to the display of utter disregard for Karnataka by Maharashtra which has recklessly released excess waters from its rivers towards Belagavi and other northern districts of Karnataka.
Migration is twenty-first century conquering
A simple comparison of linguistic census numbers of villages in and around Belagavi during the fifties and sixties (data collected by the Mahajan Report) with the data of the seventies shows that there has been a steady migration of Marathi speakers from across the border. This phenomenon which created Marathi minorities to begin with has already led to Marathi majorities in several villages.
So if the trend continues, it shouldn't come as a surprise if within the next few decades Marathis "conquer" Belagavi and then move on to Dharwad, Raichur, Uttara Kannada or even all the way to Maisuru - especially with the central government having a commission to legitimize such migrations.