Polity & Governance Prelims cum Mains

In call for separate North Karnataka, some old wounds, some new politics

Why in news?

  • Flagging the alleged discrimination to the Northern part of the State in the Karnataka Budget, a couple of organisations raised a demand for a separate state of North Karnataka last month.



Reasons for North Karnataka subnationalism and the divide, if any, between South and North Karnataka

History of unification of Karnataka

Areas under the Wodeyar King

  • Under the rule of the Wodeyar king and his dewans, Mysore had achieved many impressive feats.
  • In 1806, it was perhaps the first state to take up vaccination against smallpox.
  • According to the first Human Development Report prepared by the government of Karnataka in 1999, the first two birth control clinics in the world were set up by the government of Mysore in 1930.
  • Its emphasis on education and health, and its aid to industries laid the foundations for the state’s many public sector institutions.
  • Agriculture boomed thanks to its big dam projects.
  • Mysore became the first state to use electric power to light up a city (Bengaluru).


Areas under the Nizam

  • The area under the Nizam, which is now known as Hyderabad-Karnataka, remained a feudal and desperately poor place.
  • Bombay-Karnataka, where the demand for a united Kannada-speaking state first emerged in the 20th century, also lagged behind.



  • In 1954, at the height of the debate over the unification of Karnataka, Mysore Chief Minister Kengal Hanumanthaiah set up a committee to survey the Kannada-speaking areas scattered across the Bombay Presidency, Hyderabad, and Coorg.
  • Its task was to assess the levels of development in these areas with respect to education, irrigation, and industrialisation.
  • The committee returned a stark assessment: though united by language, a large chunk of these areas were decades behind the State of Mysore.
  • Both these areas of Hyderabad-Karnataka and Bombay-Karnataka felt alienated from the political regimes that ruled them; unification was a way to seek a new, fairer deal.
  • But many leaders of Mysore were opposed to adding on new political units.
  • There was also the question of caste- The Vokkaligas, who were concentrated in the South, feared that a united state would give Lingayats (their rival dominant caste in the northern regions) unprecedented political power.
  • In 1956, the newly unified state, called Mysore, was formed. It was renamed Karnataka in 1973.


Why would the people of the region want to reverse something they had fought for ?

  • In the decades since 1956, the arid and drought-prone regions of Hyderabad-Karnataka (comprising the districts of Bidar, Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal and Bellary) and Bombay-Karnataka (Bijapur, Hubli-Dharwad, Belagavi, Gadag and Bagalkote districts) have not kept pace with the South.
  • Hyderabad-Karnataka, especially, has areas with alarmingly low HDI indicators, resulting in stunting and malnourishment in children.
  • These are also areas characterised by great inequality. They haven’t been able to pull up every section of the society.


Background of the demand for a separate state of North Karnataka

  • The first demand for a separate state of North Karnataka was made in 2000.
  • In 2000, Chief Minister S M Krishna formed a high-powered committee headed by economist D M Nanjundappa to look into the regional imbalance in the state.
  • The committee confirmed that the northern regions were some of the most backward, and recommended spending Rs 2,000 crore on their development every year, for eight years.
  • In 2012, Hyderabad-Karnataka area was awarded special status under Article 371J, allocating more funds to the region, and reservation in jobs and education to its residents.
  • Ever since the Kumaraswamy government took oath this year, there have been rumblings that a Vokkaliga Chief Minister would not do justice to the North.

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