The Basavaraj Bommai-led Bharatiya Janata Party government (BJP) on Monday approved the rechristening of “Mumbai-Karnataka” as “Kittur-Karnataka” to sever any ties to the erstwhile Bombay presidency or colonial-era nomenclature. Around seven districts were included into Karnataka when the reorganisation of states had been done in 1956.
“It was decided to rechristen as we didn’t want to refer to the region as Bombay-Karnataka or Mumbai-Karnataka,” JC Madhuswamy, the minister for law, parliamentary affairs and minor irrigation, said after a cabinet meeting.
While Karnataka celebrates Kannada Rajyotsava on November 1, the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti (MES), a group of native Marathi speakers, observe a black day as they claim to have been forcibly separated from their parent state 66 years ago during the reorganisation exercise.
The renaming has two benefits -- one is to shrug off any ties to Mumbai and Maharashtra as well as naming the region after 19th century ruler Kittur Rani Chennamma, who is from the dominant Panchamasalis, the largest sub-sect within the Lingayats.
In 2012, the state government inaugurated the Suvarana Vidhana Soudha, a replica of the Vidhana Soudha in Bengaluru, where it holds the winter session of the state legislature, to further thwart any claims of territory from the neighbouring state.
This region, among the most backward in the state and country, includes districts of Uttara Kannada, Belagavi, Dharwad, Vijayapura, Bagalkote, Gadag and Haveri.
The change in name has been a long-standing demand by pro-Kannada organisations.
Kittur Rani Chenamma, one of the first rulers to take on the British, ruled the region from 1778 to 1829.
The Karnataka government has been trying to rid itself of nomenclature in regions that came under the newly formed state of Karnataka in 1956. The northern and north-eastern districts came from Bombay presidency and Nizams while some regions in the south were from the Madras presidency.
In 2019, the BS Yediyurappa government had renamed Hyderabad-Karnataka region as Kalyana-Karnataka.
The rechristened region would also be a move to assuage simmering tensions between the government and the Panchamasali who have been intensifying its demands to be included in the 2A category of the state reservation list.
Influential seers and other leaders of the Panchamsalis have demanded that their reservation-related request be met at the earliest, failing which the community would revive its agitation.
The community has already started to mobilise support for its cause and the government continues to reassure the group of appropriate action.