Maharashtra and Karnataka have agitated over the inclusion of some towns and villages along the state border ever since the State Reorganisation Act was passed by the Parliament in 1956. But the inter-State border dispute between Karnataka and Maharashtra erupts every now and then.
On November 1, 1956, Mysore state later renamed Karnataka was formed, and differences between the state and the neighboring Bombay state – later Maharashtra – erupted. Maharashtra was of the view that the northwestern district of Karnataka, Belagavi, should be part of the state, leading to a decade-long violent agitation and formation of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti.
Maharashtra invoked Section 21 (2)(b) of the Act, submitting a petition to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs stating its objection to Marathi-speaking areas being included in Karnataka. It claimed 814 villages and the three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nippani as part of the Bombay Presidency before Independence. It also filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2004, holding up a claim over Belagavi. However, almost two decades after the petition, its maintainability remains challenged.
Karnataka, meanwhile, has consistently argued that the inclusion of Belagavi as part of its territory is beyond dispute. It has cited the demarcation done on linguistic lines as per the Act and the 1967 Mahajan Commission Report to substantiate its position. From 2006, Karnataka started holding the winter session of the Legislature in Belagavi, building a massive Secretariat building in the district headquarters on the lines of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru to reassert its claim.
The border issue springs up every time the Karnataka Assembly session is held in Belagavi. In 2021, during the Belagavi session, the city had turned into a crisis. An MES activist’s face was blackened by Kannada activists for organizing an event demanding the merger of Belagavi with Maharashtra.
In 1966, at Maharashtra’s insistence, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi established a one-man commission led by Mehr Chand Mahajan, third Chief Justice of India, a few months before the 1967 general elections, with its report being released after the elections. It recommended that 264 villages be transferred to Maharashtra and that Belagavi (Belgaum) and 247 villages remain with Karnataka. Maharashtra rejected the report, while Karnataka welcomed it. Karnataka argued that either the Mahajan Commission Report should be accepted fully, or the status quo maintained.
Karnataka has resorted to Article 3 of the Indian Constitution to argue that the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to decide the borders of states, and only Parliament has the power to do so. Maharashtra has referred to Article 131 of the Constitution, which says that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in cases related to disputes between the Union government and states.
Recently a war of words broke out between BJP leaders in Karnataka and Maharashtra over the border row last month after CM Basavaraj Bommai said the BJP-led government was “seriously considering” a resolution to include Jath taluka in western Maharashtra’s Sangli district. Maharashtra, however, dismissed Mr. Bommai’s claims. Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis said not a single village in Maharashtra would be ceded to Karnataka.