Maharashtra-Karnataka Border Row Escalates: Trucks Targeted, Ministers Call Off Visit

Trucks bearing Maharashtra number plates stopped by Kannada group, windshield of one truck is damaged in stone-pelting

A truck damaged by protesters from an organisation called Karnataka Rakshana Vedike in Belagavi.

Belagavi (Karnataka):

Trucks bearing Maharashtra numbers were stopped and smeared with black ink, and at least one of these pelted with stones, in Belagavi after a protest by an organisation called Karnataka Rakshana Vedike turned violent amid the festering — and lately escalating — inter-state border row.

Belagavi is at the centre of the territorial dispute as Maharashtra has been claiming that this Marathi-majority area was wrongly given to Kannada-majority Karnataka in the language-based reorganisation of states in the 1960s.

Karnataka recently renewed its claim over some villages in Maharashtra, igniting a fresh round of acrimony even as both states have the same party, the BJP, in power. 

At the protest today, windshield of at least one truck was damaged as scores of protesters carrying the traditional Kannada/Karnataka flag blocked traffic. Police were deployed to calm the situation, but the protesters were seen jostling with cops and laying down on the road.

This came hours after another big sign of the escalation: Two Maharashtra ministers, Chandrakant Patil and Shambhuraj Desai, postponed their scheduled visit to Belagavi. On Monday, Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had said the visit could lead to a law and order challenge. Maharashtra has appointed Mr Patil and Mr Desai as coordinating ministers as the row is also in the Supreme Court again.

Belagavi saw another case of violence over the border row around a week ago, at a college fest, when a student waving the Kannada flag was assaulted by some Marathi students. Teachers and other staff members of the host college at Tilakwadi in Belagavi intervened to stop the fight, and police later started an inquiry.

About the cancelled visit, Maharashtra minister Shambhuraj Desai said it had "only been postponed" as "we don't want to create any issues" on BR Ambedakar's death anniversary.

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