When India’s freedom struggle was at its peak, the region, which comprised Belagavi, Bijapur, Dharwad, and Karwar, fought against the British rulers with full might and most importantly, full unity. There was not an element of discord of language, say locals.
Marathi, Kannada, and Urdu speaking people stood shoulder to shoulder and took part in freedom struggle. In 1924, the 39th convention of the Congress was held in Tilakawadi of Belagavi.
While Mahatma Gandhi presided over the convention, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Moulana Abdul Kalam Azad participated and addressed the gathering.
The place was named as Vijayanagar and to arrange water facility for lakhs of participants, a well was constructed and it is called as “Congress well”. During the time of S.M. Krishna headed Congress government, the historic place was elevated as garden and named as ” Veer Soudha”.
Every year, special programmes are organised to remember the historic moment.
Kannada activists say that in front of towering personalities, legendary singer Gangubhai Hangal sang “Udayavaagali namma Cheluva Kannada naadu”, which literally translates to “let the beautiful land of Karnataka arise”.
There was absolutely no discord, and no controversy about the song then, they maintain, and the “Veer Soudha” still stands tall in Tilakawadi region amid simmering tensions between people on the lines of languages.
Mostly people in Belagavi are bilingual. Maratha people speak Kannada very well and Kannadigas speak Marathi and coexist without discord but for the language crisis, which is a post-independent period phenomenon.
Belagavi is known as Kundanagari. Kunda is a trademark sweet dish exclusively available in Belagavi and one in which Marathas and Kannadigas take pride. Also exported to many countries, it was invented by a Rajasthan-based family settled here.
The district has key influence on Karnataka politics as it is the biggest district with 17 talukas, 18 Assembly constituencies and three parliamentary seats.
Tarun, an engineering student, stated that the region is affected by one or the other incident of violence most of the times. Peace is good but it takes time.
It is to be seen whether the city will be able to rebounce to the pre-Independence days where there was nothing but harmony among people and spirit of fighting against the British.