Karnataka Govt to recognise Lingayat as separate religion
Bengaluru: The Karnataka Cabinet on Monday decided to recommend to the Centre grant of religious minority status for the numerically strong Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community, a move that has stoked a huge row just months ahead of Assembly polls in the state.
The decision that is fraught with political implications is seen as an attempt by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to wean away a section of the community towards the Congress. BJP chief ministerial candidate B S Yeddyurappa hails from the Lingayat community.
Lingayats/Veerashaivas, estimated to form 17 per cent of the state's population, are considered the BJP's traditional voter base in Congress-ruled Karnataka.
The Cabinet decision was slammed by the BJP which accused Siddaramaiah of "playing with fire" for vote bank politics and carrying on with the 'Divide and Rule' legacy of Britishers in India.
A meeting of the Cabinet considered the recommendations of the Karnataka State Minority Commission (KSMC) amid reports of division among ministers and seers of the community striking a discordant note on the issue of giving separate religion status for Lingayats. The cabinet had twice deferred a decision on the issue.
"After due deliberations and some discussions on concerns of various sections of society, the cabinet has decided to accept the recommendations of the Karnataka State Minority Commission," Law Minister T B Jayachandra said.
He said the commission, based on the report of an expert committee, has recommended considering grant of recognition as religious minority to the Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayats (Believers of Basava Tatva (philosophy) under section 2 (d) of the Karnataka State Minorities Act.
"It was also decided to forward the same to the central government for notifying under Section 2(c) of the Central Minority Commission Act," he told reporters.
Jayachandra said the decision would not affect the rights and interests enjoyed by the existing minorities.
The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the numerically strong and politically influential community, amid resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.
The Lingayat/Veerashaiva community that owes allegiance to the "social reform movement" initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state. One section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has asserted that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same and religious status be given to them.
The other group wants it only for Lingayats as they believe that Veerashaivas are one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism. Of late, some Lingayats have also stated that they were open to having the Veerashaivas under their umbrella, but that Lingayat nomenclature was non-negotiable.