Marathi speaking areas of Karnataka should be declared Union Territory: Chavan

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Mumbai, July 13 (ANI): Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan on Tuesday demanded that the Centre declare Marathi-speaking villages in Karnataka,including Belgaum, as a Union Territory till a court decision was arrived at. The opposition Shiv Sena backed the demand.

However, Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar refused to comment on Belgaum issue.

Chavan demand came even as government buses of Maharashtra and Karnataka continued to be targeted over the vexed Belgaum issue, forcing the authorities to stop inter-state services for 48 hours.

"The 865 Marathi speaking villages in Karnataka should be declared as Union Territory until the issue is settled in the Supreme Court," Chavan told the state Legislative Council during a discussion on Maharashtra-Karnataka border row.

Chavan, who would be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow in Delhi with an all-party delegation, said he would make the request to him.

"There is no option other than making the villages Union Territory and we would request the PM to cooperate with us on the issue," Chavan said.

Throwing his weight behind Chavan's demand, Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray wanted Marathi-speaking areas in Karnataka like Belgaum, Nipani, Karwar, Bidar and Bhalki to be made union territory till the border row case is settled in Supreme Court.

Central security forces should be deployed in these areas, he said.

Defending his demand for the Union Territory, Chavan said the Karnataka Government is changing the names of the villages posing a threat to the law and order situation in the region. Marathi people have also been given biased treatment, he alleged.

The Maharashtra-Karnataka border issue also figured in the Legislative Assembly leading to two adjournments of the Lower House.

The long-pending dispute between Maharashtra and Karnataka over Belgaum got revived after the Centre's affidavit in the Supreme Court that the area could not become a part of Maharashtra just because most of the people there spoke Marathi. The Centre's affidavit put the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra in a spot.

Chavan also put the ball into BJP's court as BJP is ruling in Karnataka and asked them to intervene the matter.

"There is no question of backing from the Supreme Court but your (BJP) Government is ruling there and I am ready if the issue can be sorted out with consensus," Chavan said.

Senior Maharashtra Congress leaders also had a meeting on the border row in Mumbai. "Belgaum belongs to Maharashtra," MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre said. A delegation of state Congress leaders will meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi to apprise her of sentiments of people of Maharashtra, he added. (ANI)

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