Study of Mahajan Commission Report

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Study of Mahajan Commission Report

By Ritika Singh

BACKGROUND

In 1948, the SK Dhar committee was appointed by the government to look into the need for the reorganization of states on a linguistic basis. They preferred reorganization of states based on administrative convenience including historical and geographical considerations instead of on linguistic lines. This created much resentment and led to the appointment of another Linguistic Provinces Committee.[1]

In December 1948, the JVP Committee – Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabh Bhai Patel, and Pattabhi Sitaramayya was formed to study the issue of reorganization of states in India. The report submitted in April 1949, rejected the idea of reorganization of states on a linguistic basis but said that the issue could be looked at afresh in the light of public demand.

However, due to extensive protests, in October 1953, the Government of India created the first linguistic state by separating the Telugu speaking areas from the Madras state, known as Andhra Pradesh.

DISPUTE

The erstwhile Bombay Presidency, a multilingual province, included the present-day Karnataka districts of Vijayapura, Belagavi, Dharwad, and Uttara-Kannada.

In 1948, it was proposed for incorporation of Maharashtra state, by the Belgaum municipality who requested the district having a predominantly Marathi-speaking population. However, the States Reorganisation Act of 1956, which divided states into linguistic and administrative lines, made Mysore State, which was renamed Karnataka in 1973,  where Belgaum and 10 talukas of Bombay State were apart.[2]

The division was done even though Belgaum had a majority of the Marathi-speaking population. According to the 1881 Census, Belgaum had 64.39% of the population speaking Kannada and 26.04% were Marathi-speaking individuals.[3]

This led to the border dispute between the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka which is famously called the “Belgaum border dispute” or Belagavi dispute.

MAHAJAN COMMISSION

In September 1957, the Bombay government echoed their demand and protested with the Centre, leading to the formation of the Commission under former CJI Mehr Chand Mahajan in October 1966. The Mahajan Committee was formed in 1966 by the Central Government with representatives from both states[4].

The committee recommended in 1967 that 264 villages shall be transferred to Maharashtra. This included some villages in Haliyal, Karwar, and Suparna Taluks as well. On the other hand, Belgaum and 247 villages were to remain with Karnataka.[5]

The Maharashtra government rejected the report and termed the reports as biased and self-contradictory because the “formula” applied for Kasaragod was not applied for Belgaum.  Maharashtra Government insisted that the report is against the “wish of people” of Belgaum.

The Kerala government refuted the recommendations of the report and refused to hand over Kasaragod to Karnataka. The Karnataka government welcomed the report and continued to press for the implementation of the report or maintaining the status quo. Despite demands from Karnataka, the Centre never implemented the recommendations of the report. Rather it has been non-committal on resolving the border dispute.

Therefore, the center recommended the states settle the matter by mutual consultation.

COMMITTEE FORMATION

In 1960, both states decided to set up a four-member committee with two members from each state, to study and submit a report.

During this process, Maharashtra offered to transfer 260 Kannada-speaking villages in return for its demand for 814 villages and three urban settlements.

However, both states could not come to any consensus following the findings of the committee. In the years that followed, several talks were held between the two governments, which ended without a resolution.

SUPREME COURT CASE

In 2004, the Maharashtra government moved the Supreme Court for a settlement of the border dispute under Article 131(b) of the Constitution.

The Maharashtra government claimed that the Marathi speaking population in Karnataka was being sidelined and there was a feeling of ‘insecurity among them’,  Maharashtra asked that 814 villages in Belgaum, Karwar, Bidar, and Gulbarga districts in Karnataka be moved under their jurisdiction since it had a majority of Marathi speaking people.

Karnataka stated that when Congress, which redrew its circles on a linguistic basis in 1920, included Belagavi in the Karnataka Provincial Congress Committee. Besides, the States Reorganisation Commission vested Belagavi with Karnataka.

Karnataka held the view that the settlement of boundaries as per the States Reorganisation Act is final, as the boundary of the State was neither tentative nor flexible. The State argued that the issue would reopen border issues that have not been contemplated under the Act, and that such a demand should not be permitted.

In 2012, to reiterate its claim over Belagavi, the Karnataka government inaugurated a new Assembly building, called the Suvarna Vidhana Soudha.

LATER  DEVELOPMENTS

After the formation of Maharashtra’s Maha Vikas Aghadi government, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray appointed Ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Eknath Shinde as coordinators to oversee the state’s efforts to expedite the case related to the dispute.

Tensions escalated in the border region later in December 2019 when bus services between Kolhapur and Belgaum were suspended after Kannada organizations staged a protest in Belgaum and burnt effigies of Thackeray, and Shiv Sena workers did the same in Kolhapur, burning effigies of Yediyurappa.[6]

In January 2021, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said areas dominated by Marathi- speaking people on the state’s border with Karnataka should be declared as a Union Territory till the Supreme Court gives its final verdict on the issue.


Author is a 6th Semester Law Student pursuing B.A. LL.B. from Indore Institute of Law, with keen interests in the field of Intellectual Property Rights, Cyber Awareness and Data Privacy.

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