No separate religion tag for lingayats in Maharashtra

In Karnakata, in the run-up to the Assembly polls, the Congress-government had given religion status to the Lingayat community. (DH File Photo)

In what could set off a political debate, the BJP-Shiv Sena saffron alliance government in Maharashtra has said that it would not accord separate religion status to the Lingayat community.

Minorities Development and Education Minister Vinod Tawde, in a written reply to the ongoing Nagpur monsoon session of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, has indicated that separate religion status would not be given to the Lingayat community that has a presence in Maharashtra as well. 

It may be recalled that in Karnakata, in the run-up to the Assembly polls, the then Congress-government had given religion status to the Lingayat community.

In his reply, Tawde pointed out that the Union Minorities Development Ministry, in response to the recommendation of the National Minorities  Commission, in May 2014, had said that the Veershaiva Lingayat is not a separate religion but a sub-sect of Hindu religion.

However, Minister of State for Public Health Vijay Deshmukh, who himself is from the Lingayat community, has said that he would meet Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in this regard.

It may be recalled that after the Karnataka government gave religion status to Lingayats, several members of the community made representations to the Maharashtra government.

The Lingayats are followers of 12th-century saint Basavanna who rebelled against Brahminism and its ritualistic practices. They are considered as a sect within the Hindu religion, but some Lingayats say it was a separate religion.

In India, after Karnakata that has around 16 per cent Lingayat population, Maharashtra has around six to seven per cent.

It may be recalled that the then Prithviraj Chavan government included 21 sub-castes of the Lingayat community into Other Backward Castes (which have 27% reservation) and Special Backward Classes (which have 2% reservation), in August 2014 in the run-up to the previous Vidhan Sabha polls. The inclusion was based on the recommendation of the Maharashtra State Commission for Backward Classes.

Prominent politicians hailing from the Lingayat community include former Union Home Minister and ex-Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil, former ministers Dilip Sopal, Vinay Kore and late Ratnappa Kumbhar, and current Shiv Sena MP from Aurangabad, Chandrakant Khaire.

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No separate religion tag for lingayats in Maharashtra

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