Statue politics rocks Belgavi once again

By GS Radhakrishna

Aug 31, 2020

New Delhi: The sleepy village of Peeranwadi in Belgavi district of Karnataka ,177 kms from district headquarters, shot to fame in the early hours last Thursday over statue politics that has engulfed the region for the few months .

In the early hours (2.30 am) Friday, groups of youth installed a statue of Sangolli Rayanna in the village circles in thirty minutes with prefabricated platform and vanished. The sudden happening gave a nightmarish touch to both police and villagers as both braced for cascading political actions to happen during the day .

About just a few kms from Maharashtra borders, the Peeranwadi village witnessed rival acts of Kannada and Marathi agitators wanting to install statue of freedom fighter Sanfolli Rayanna ( Kannada ) and Chstrapafhi Shivaji Maharaj ( Maratha ) . Both groups wanted to install the statue of their choice at the same spot in the Center of the village and were stalled by the police and district administration.

As suspense heithened, both statues were stranded on the road side for a week or so. Suddenly on Thursday- Friday at around 2.30 am, a group of 200 Kannada agitators landed from nowhere in the village along with a cement block pedestal. Within half an hour, when the police pickets in the village had gone away on another errand, they installed the statue of Sangolli Rayannna, a Kannada freedom fighter, with a hurry-burry puja ritual and garlanding ceremony.

When the police returned with in an hour, they were aghast at the sight of an installed statue and another statue of Shivaji still on the ground .

Even as the policemen could wake up to situation and sought more forces, a group of Marathi youth descended. By then the Kannada agitators had also been mobilised.

Even before the 2000 strong village woke up and locals tried to understand what had happened, both the groups raised slogans against each other and crated a war-like situation in the village, leading to police lathi charge on the crowds. Provoked by the sight of Rayanna statue, the Maratha crowd tried to install the Shivaji statue which was stalled by the police .

By noon, news spread and as more police arrived, groups of both the political hues landed there and raked up the silence of the Western Ghat village with political clamour .

Police have arrested 20 Kannada agitators and filed FIR , but no action on Marathi activists K. Thiagarajan , the Belgavi District police commissioner said that additional forces had been sent to the village and status quo followed as regard to the Rayanna statue as the state government is yet to take a final call.

The police prevented the Marathi section from installing the statue of Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and confiscated the statue. Attempts to damage the Rayannna statue were also thwarted and a strong police picket was posted at village square.

Both the leaders Of Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti( Marathi lobby) and Kannada chaluvali( Kannada lobby) have landed in the village .

The Karnataka Water Resources and District Incharge Minister Ramesh Jarkiholi on Thursday had said that the state government would follow Supreme Court verdict on statue issue,

What happened in Peeranwadi village is a fallout of the decade old tussle on the demand for inclusion of parts of Belgavi district to Maharashtra .

As Maharashtra’s new Shiv Sena-led government settled in, the decades-old border row with Karnataka is raked up once again.

After linguistic bifurcation of states in 1956 , Maharashtra has staked claim for portions of Belgavi with Marathi speaking minority population.

An area of 2,806 square miles that covers 814 villages, and three urban settlements of Belagavi, Karwar and Nipani with a total population of about 6.7 lakh is claimed by Maharashtra. These areas were part of the Bombay Presidency before independence.At present, the villages are spread across Belagavi and Uttar Kannada , Bidar and Gulbarga districts, all sharing border with Maharashtra.

Shiv Sena is trying to get edge over its opponent BJP by hoisting series of agitations in Karnataka .What happened in Peerwadi appears to be a beginning of this language cum regional row .

—India News Stream