Maharashtra minister ready for ‘life term in jail’

March 23rd, 2008 - 10:44 pm ICT by admin  

Sangli (Maharashtra), March 23 (IANS) In a sharp rejoinder to the leaders in Karnataka who called for his arrest, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil Sunday said he was prepared to spend a lifetime in jail to defend the four million “oppressed” Marathi-speaking people living in the Maharashtra-Karnataka border regions of Belgaum, Karvar and Nipani. “Over four million Marathi speaking people in 856 border villages in Karnataka are living a life of prisoners suffocating under a reign of terror unleashed by the state government, and I am prepared to spend the rest of my life in jail fighting for their cause,” Patil said addressing a public rally here.

In a debate in the Maharashtra assembly over a nearly five-decade-old Maharashtra-Karnataka border dispute last week, Patil assured agitated members that the government would do all it could to bolster its case in the Supreme Court.

He added that the people of Maharashtra were solidly behind their counterparts in the Karnataka border region in their fight for justice.

Rising in support of Patil, Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, who belongs to the Congress party, admitted in the assembly that the state failed to put up its case in the apex court strongly enough.

Deshmukh also expressed unequivocal support to the Maharashtra Ekikaran Samiti, which has been fighting for the transfer of the disputed areas to Maharashtra since the formation of the state in 1960.

Cutting across party lines, political leaders in Karnataka, including former chief minister Kumaraswamy, had demanded that Patil be arrested for his statements in the Maharashtra assembly last week against the neighbouring state that “defied the spirit of Indian constitution”.

Leaders of major opposition party Shiv Sena had, on the other hand, demanded that the disputed border areas be denoted as union territory pending the Supreme Court verdict in the border row.

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