Lingayat: govt seeks minority panel view

Lingayat: govt seeks minority panel view

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah finally set the ball rolling on the contentious demand for a minority-religion tag for Lingayats or the Veerashaiva Lingayat faiths.

His office on Thursday directed the Karnataka State Minorities Commission to examine petitions submitted by religious and political leaders.

Assembly polls are approaching, and the government's response to the demand is expected to swing voter sentiment.

According to a note accessed by DH, Siddaramaiah has directed the Department of Personnel and Administrative Reforms to forward all petitions to the minorities panel.

He has received two major representations seeking separate religion status.

The representation were received from the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha and another from a Lingayat grouping.

Divide within Congress
The Veerashaiva and Lingayat camps, comprising leaders from the ruling Congress, have been at loggerheads on the demand for a separate religion.

The Veerashaiva group comprises veteran Congress leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa, his son and horticulture minister S S Mallikarjun and municipalities minister Eshwar B Khandre.

They hold that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are the same and that the separate religion should be christened Veerashaiva-Lingayatism.

The Lingayat camp, led by water resources minister M B Patil, mines and geology minister Vinay Kulkarni and higher education minister Basavaraj Rayareddy, argues that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are radically different, and the religion must be called Lingayatism.

The second group says it goes by the ideals of Basavanna, revered as the founder of the Lingayat faith.

Political hot potato

Sources said the DPAR had no clue what to do with the memorandums.

"The DPAR sent the file to the social welfare department, which got back saying it had nothing to do with the separate religion question. The file then went to the Kannada and culture department, and met with the same fate. Finally, it was sent to the law department, and the advocate-general opined the State Minorities Commission should examine it," an official explained.

Leaders and pontiffs from the two camps have been exerting pressure on Siddaramaiah to take up the demand with the Centre.

Who decides then?
Under the National Commission for Minorities Act, the Centre is empowered to accord minority religious status to a community.

The State government is also exploring the possibility of according minority religious status under the Karnataka State Minorities Commission Act, the official said.  

Lingayatism? Veerashaivism?
If the government accepts the demand for a separate religion, it will have to decide what to call it: Lingayatism or Veerashaiva-Lingayatism.

One camp says Lingayats and Veerashaivas are separate; another says they are the same.

Lingayats say they live by the ideals of Basavanna (12th century), who values equality and honest toil above all else.

Veerashaivas say their religion predates Basavanna. They worship a pantheon of holy men.

 

Watch: DH series on Lingayat religion row 

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