No conclusion on Lingayat row as panel seeks six months to submit report

No conclusion on Lingayat row as panel seeks six months to submit report
The contentious issue of minority religion status to the Veerashaiva- Lingayat faith in Karnataka is unlikely to reach a conclusion before the Assembly elections due in a few months.

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.

This comes in the backdrop of stiff opposition from the powerful All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha and several Veerashaiva mutts, who threatened to launch a dharma yuddha if the committee was not disbanded. The Karnataka High Court, too, has issued a rider that whatever decision the committee takes would be subject to the outcome of a petition it is hearing.

“Four weeks is not enough, given the seriousness and importance of the subject we are dealing with here. 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 Justice H N Nagmohan Das, who chairs 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 holds that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are the same and that the separate religion should be christened Veerashaiva-Lingayat. The Lingayat camp argues that Veerashaiva and Lingayat are radically different, and the religion must be called Lingayat.

Justice Das said the committee is looking into 36 representations from organisations, mutts and individuals seeking to declare minority religion status on Veerashaiva and Lingayat faiths.

The committee also decided to give the public an opportunity to be heard. “Any interested party can submit a representation to us with documents before January 25,” Justice Das said. The committee will also urge the government to appoint a woman in the committee.

At present, 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. While Assadi was overseas for a lecture, other members attended the meeting.

The panel’s first meeting lasted under an hour and members were given specific topics to research.

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