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So Near Yet So Far: Marathi Speakers in Belgaum, Karnataka

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Duration: 0:18:33 | Added: 21 Dec 2021
Part of the International conference on Maharashtra in September 2021 - Gopa Sabharwal, University of Delhi

Following the widespread dispersal of the Marathi speaking communities over an area much wider than that occupied by the present state of Maharshtra (the formally designated home state of the Marathi speakers – this paper focuses on the Marathi speaking people resident in what was earlier Belgaum (now Belgavi), a region that lay at the margins of two linguistic cultures Kannada and Marathi.

This sizeable Marathi speaking diaspora have a long history of settlement in this region but were left out of the formal grouping of Marathi speaking areas following the linguistic reorganization of Indian states post independence. They were placed instead in Karnataka the home land of Kannada speakers, on the other side of the border and have ever since, lived in a situation of so near yet so far in many respects specially their cultural and linguistic identity. Their lives in Karnataka have led to a continued tussle between them and the Kannada speakers at various levels social, cultural, political and economic.

They have deep ties with the mother state so to say but also have a hybrid culture of their own with intermarriages with the Kannadigas and emotional ties to the land they are settled on. Following an earlier in-depth study of various aspects of ethnic identity formation of this group of settlers in Belguam (in 1993), the current paper intends to look at how the articulation of their linguistic identity and its manipulation by various stakeholders has progressed over the last two decades. It seeks to set out the many dimensions of articulation of ethnic identity and political, economic and educational agendas and the reactions to these by various agencies formal and informal. The recent establishment of the alternate State legislature of Karnataka in Belgaum and the renaming of the town to Belgavi are cases in point.

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