Expert panel wants six months time to decide on Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue

Expert panel wants six months time to decide on Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue

The contentious issue of minority religion status to the Veerashaiva-Lingayat faith in Karnataka is unlikely to reach a conclusion before the Assembly election.

A 7-member expert committee constituted by the state government, which met for the first time on Saturday, decided to seek six months time to submit its report. The panel was originally given four weeks.

"Four weeks is not enough, given the seriousness and importance of the subject we are dealing with. This is an unprecedented development in India. There's a huge responsibility on the committee and we want to do a proper, scientific job. So, the committee has decided to seek six months time from the government to submit our report," retired Karnataka High Court judge Justice H N Nagmohan Das, chairman of the committee, told a press conference here.

The Veerashaiva and Lingayat camps, comprising religious leaders as well as members of the ruling 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.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was under pressure from various groups to take a call on the issue. On December 22, the Karnataka State Minorities Commission formed a 7-member expert committee.

The government, Justice Das said, has received 36 representations from organisations, mutts and individuals seeking to declare minority religion status on Veerashaiva-Lingayat faith.

The committee has also decided to give the public an opportunity to make a case. "Any interested party can submit a representation on this issue with documents before January 25," Justice Das said. The committee will also urge the government to appoint a woman in the committee.

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

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