JD(S) leader Basavaraj Horatti was on Tuesday elected first president of the Jagathika Lingayat Mahasabha, new forum that will take on the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha in the campaign for a separate religion status for the Lingayat faith.
The Mahasabha was formalised at a day-long meeting of religious and political leaders. Retired IAS officer S M Jaamdar was elected general secretary. Medical Education Minister Sharan Prakash Patil was elected state committee president.
"We have vowed not to rest until the Lingayat faith gets independent religion status," said Water Resources Minister M B Patil, who is leading the Lingayat religion campaign. He is said to have played a key role in the creation of the Mahasabha.
"There is no politics behind the Mahasabha's establishment. This is for the betterment of the Lingayat society and to uphold Basavanna's ideals. We are ready to make any sacrifice to meet these ends." Patil said he would work in the Mahasabha as a common member without holding any office.
Those spearheading the campaign say Lingayats are not Hindus. They also maintain that Veerashaiva and Lingayat faiths are radically different. The Jagathika Lingayat Mahasabha is the result of the Veerashaiva Mahasabha not supporting the demand for the Lingayat faith to become a separate religion. The Veerashaiva Mahasabha argues that Veerashaivas and Lingayats are the same.
"We are not against Hindus, but it is important that we safeguard our identity. The Mahasabha is not an organisation set up to oppose anybody. It will work for the uplift of the poor," Horatti said. Representatives from 99 sub-castes under the Lingayat faith were given various positions in the new Mahasabha.
Mines and Geology Minister Vinay Kulkarni, Medical Education Minister Sharan Prakash Patil, Lok Sabha member Prakash Hukkeri, Gadag Tontadarya Mutt seer Siddalinga Swami, Bhalki Hiremutt seer Basava Pattadevaru, Panchamasali Peetha seer Basava Jaya Mrutyunjaya Swami, Nishkala Mantapa's Nijagunananda Swami, Halasuru Gurubasava Swami, Athani Shivabasava Swami, writers Go Ru Channabasappa and Chandrashekhar Patil were present.
"The Jagathika Lingayath Mahasabha is the most transitional phenomenon of the 21st century," Chandrashekhar Patil said. "I urge all Veerashaivas to join this great flood."