Although response for the 2 August bandh demanding bifurcation of Karnataka evoked poor response, it had the backing of many people in the 12 neglected northern districts of the State and of the BJP government at the Centre.
Organised by the Uttara Karnataka Horata Samiti and led by the heads of Lingayat and Veerashaiva mutts, the immediate provocation for the bandh was Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy’s response to their query on why northern districts were neglected in his budget presented last month. “You did not vote for me, so you will not get anything from me,” said the chief Minister.
The Constitution prescribes that the State’s resources should be distributed equitably. But in the recent Kumaraswamy budget, the northern districts have been virtually left out.
A lion’s share of the budget went for Bengaluru while cities like Belagavi, Dharwad and Hubballi got a pittance. Karnataka has a population of 64 million and is eligible for bifurcation.
Culturally and historically, Uttara Karnataka, despite linguistic unity with the rest of Karnataka, is quite different having been part of the erstwhile Bombay Presidency or the Nizam’s territory of Hyderabad.
While Telangana was separated from Andhra Pradesh, it became a viable State because it was able to retain Hyderabad City with it. Uttara Karnataka has no such asset.
The region is arid and bereft of any large industries. With the swamis of the Lingayat mutts in the forefront of the agitation, the BJP can be sure of Uttara Karnataka turning a safe haven for the saffron party.
The only fly in the ointment is the domino effect such bifurcation would have on neighbouring Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu, Ramadoss, founder-leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi of the backward Vanniar community, has been demanding the carving out of a separate State comprising the northern and western districts of the State where there is a preponderance of his community.
His life’s ambition is to install his son, Anbumani Ramadoss, as Chief Minister which can never be achieved in composite Tamil Nadu. The situation in Kerala is the demand by the powerful youth wing of the Indian Union Muslim League to carve out a Malabar State comprising the northern districts of Kasaragod, Kannur, Kozhikode and Malappuram and the western district of Palghat thrown in.
Hundreds of Muslim youth all over the State have been languishing in jail for several years without bail or trial. Multiple security agencies like the NIA, IB and state intelligence outfits are keeping watch over Muslim youth lest they fall prey to radicalisation rampant in other States.
Under the enlightened leadership of the late Syed Mohammed Ali Shihab Thangal, state president of the IUML, Kerala was spared of communal carnage even after demolition of Babari Masjid in 1992.