“What is the point in calling north Karnataka region as Mumbai-Karnataka anymore," Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai asked as he announced the renaming of the Bombay, or Mumbai-Karnataka region of the state, to Kittur-Karnataka. But why do Karnataka regions bear names like Bombay-Karnataka, and Hyderabad-Karnataka?
What Are The Mumbai-, Hyderabad-Karnataka Regions?
The Mumbai- and Hyderabad-Karnataka regions comprise the northern parts of the state and mark the areas bordering Maharashtra and Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, respectively. The Mumbai-Karnataka region is made up of the seven districts of Uttara Kannada, Belagavi, Dharwad, Vijayapura, Bagalkote, Gadag and Haveri. It has been now renamed as Kittur Karnataka.
Reports say that the name Kittur harks back to a historical kingdom in Belagavi district associated with Rani Chennamma (1778-1829), a legend of the Lingayat community, who had taken up arms against the British colonialists. Given the Lingayat links, the move by the BJP government is seen as a move to woo the dominant community. Reports say that the Lingayat sub-sect to which Rani Chennamma belonged is seeking reservation within the state and the renaming of Mumbai-Karnataka as Kittur is intended to soothe frayed political ties between the community and the BJP government.
In 2019, the then Karnataka CM BS Yediyurappa had renamed the Hyderabad-Karnataka region — composed of the six north-eastern districts of Bidar, Kalaburagi, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal and Ballari — as Kalyana Karnataka. The renaming of Hyderabad-Karnataka was a nod to the historical Kalyana kingdom where the Sharana movement arose in the 11th and 12th centuries. It inspired the emergence of Vachana Sahitya and is associated with Basavanna, the key Lingayat saint and poet.
Why Are These Regions Linked To Mumbai, Karnataka?
To understand why Karnataka came to have regions named after neighouring states, one has to go back to the British times. Under Hyder Ali, the erstwhile kingdom of Mysore saw an expansion of its borders to include parts of Andhra Pradesh (or present-day Telangana) and Tamil Nadu. But after Hyder Ali’s son Tipu Sultan was defeated by the British, the colonialists broke up their kingdom with some parts going to the neighbouring kingdoms of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas.
Following India’s independence, the modern Karnataka state was created through the rejoining of these parts with the core of the old Mysore state that had been ruled by the Wodeyars. But the names of Bombay-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka stuck even as territorial disputes arose over the inclusion of these parts as part of the new state. While there are outfits that claim parts of Belagavi and adjoining districts as belonging to Maharashtra, there were calls by groups in Karnataka for these regions to lose their pre-British associations as connoted by their names.
“There is no point in retaining the old name when border disputes often emerge… Border disputes started after the unification of Karnataka. Although those disputes have now been settled, quarrels break out from time to time," Basavaraj Bommai had said while talking about the renaming of Mumbai-Karnataka.
Where Do These Regions Stand?
The north and northeastern regions are the poorer counterparts to the southern parts of Karnataka, which are home to the business and software centres of Bengaluru and Mysore. This dry and arid region is not big on agriculture or industry and has languished economically even as the southern parts have prospered. That had seen calls for the carving out of a separate state from the northern regions of Karnataka, which remain politically significant given that they are the bastion of the dominant Lingayat community.
In 2012, the Hyderabad-Karnataka region was accorded special status by the Centre by the insertion of Article 371(J) into the Constitution, which paves the way, among other things,
for the focused development of the region, including through reservation for locals in educational and vocational training institutions, and state government posts in the region.
At the time of the Kalyana Karnataka name change, former CM Yediyurappa had announced several development initiatives for the region’s development. “Mere changing the name wouldn’t help. We need to come up with concrete plans to develop the region," he had said.