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Thursday, October 05, 2006

The irony of Belgaum issue

Belgaum is a district south east of Maharashtra and lies at the centre of a border dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka and has been so for more than 4 decades. The problem is this - the organisation of states in India was done on linguistic lines and in Belgaum the division between Marathi speaking and Kannada speaking people is almost 50-50 (well almost because Maharashtra claims it has more Marathi speaking people and Karnataka claims it has more Kannada speaking). The dispute has seen protests, court cases, strikes and even threats of arrests of major political leaders on either side.

I do not wish to get into the merits of the case but the issue does raise some interesting points

  • I find it ironical that here is a country which has border disputes within its states for more than 4 decades and it has not yet managed to solve them - and this country claims that we would find peaceful solutions to border disputes that it has with its neighboring countries.
  • What this dispute and especially its lack of resolution tells me is that there are vested interests (read: political parties) which have an interest in keeping the issue alive so that it can be appropriately stoked or calmed depending on what suits them at that particular moment.
  • Another point which this raises is how regionally divided we are/feel. It matters so much to people to be classified as belonging to a particular state rather than other, especially when since the region remains the same and on a day to day level, it will at the end of the day not make any material difference.
  • What this issue tells me is also how emotional some of these issues are and unless we really understand the moot emotional reasons and address them, we can never be able to reach a solution - unless we allow enough water to pass under by when the issue loses its very foundation. In this case it would be large scale geographical movement of people whereby the concept of being belonging to a state is no longer synonymous to being physically residing in the geographical borders of it. This is what is precisely happening here with Bangalore (capital of Karnataka) becoming the IT capital of India.

Finally, it raises a more fundamental question - what does it really mean to be a 'Maharashtrian' or a 'Karnataki' or for that matter an 'Indian' or 'American' or 'British'. For this I hope to write a seperate post.

That's it for now...

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