Panel to decide on religion tag for Lingayat

Panel to decide on religion tag for Lingayat

A seven-member expert committee has been constituted to look into demands for a minority religion tag for the Lingayat and Veerashaiva faiths, even as all three major political parties - the Congress, the BJP and the JD(S) - tread cautiously on the sensitive issue ahead of the Assembly elections.    

Retired High Court Justice H N Nagmohan Das will head the committee that has been formed by the Karnataka State Minorities Commission. The committee, sources said, has been given four weeks to examine demands made by various religious groups in this regard and submit a report.

This comes days after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah asked the minorities commission to look into demands from various political and religious leaders who have sought minority religion status in the Lingayat and Veerashaiva faiths.  This is also an indication that the government is in a hurry to draw curtains on this issue, which is considered a political hot potato with  polls round the corner.

According to sources, the committee comprises Kannada Development Authority chairman S G Siddaramaiah; Jawaharlal Nehru University Kannada Language chair Purushothama Bilimale; University of Mysore political science professor Muzaffar Assadi; former backward classes commission chairman C S Dwarakanath; journalist Sarjoo Katkar and litterateur Ramakrishna Marathe.

The Veerashaiva and Lingayat camps, comprising leaders from the Congress, have been at loggerheads over the issue. 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-Lingayat. Veerashaivas say their religion predates 12th-century reformer Basavanna, revered as the founder of the Lingayat faith. Veerashaivas revere a pantheon of holy men.

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 Lingayat. This group says it goes by the ideals of Basavanna.

BJP state chief B S Yeddyurappa said his party will side with the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, whereas JD(S) supremo H D Deve Gowda has accused the ruling Congress of creating a divide among Veerashaivas and Lingayats.  

Watch DH video series on Lingayat religion row.

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