As the BJP and Congress continue to spar over granting minority status to Lingayats in Karnataka, which goes to polls in May, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in an internal note, has said that if given the minority tag, Lingayats would be “deprived” of Scheduled Caste status. The note also mentioned the move may have “widespread implications” if other sects of Hinduism also raise similar demands.
Before assembly elections in Karnataka were announced earlier this week, the Congress government in the state had decided to recommend to the Centre that religious minority status be granted to the Lingayat community. The move is expected to have a strong bearing on polls in the state, where Lingayats, a major BJP support base, form almost 17 per cent of the electorate.
While a final decision by the Home Ministry on the demand is yet to be taken, the internal communication treads cautiously on the state government’s decision. “Any move to declare Lingayats/Veerashaiva as an independent religion would have widespread implications. Arya Samaj, Radhaswami, Vaishnava and a few other sects of the Hinduism also do not adhere to typical Brahminical Hinduism,” stated the note.
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“All these sects may line up to be declared as separate religious entities. Moreover, Lingayat, if treated as a separate religion, would be deprived of the status of schedule cast which can only be for Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.”
The Registrar General of India (RGI), it is learnt, has conveyed to the home ministry that under Section 2 (c) of the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992, Muslims, Christian, Sikhs, Buddhist, Parsis and Jains have been classified as minorities. Jains were the last to get minority status in 2014.
Based on 2011 census data, the RGI is believed to have informed the MHA that there were different sects of Hinduism like Alakh, Mahima, Anand Margi, Vaishnav, Valmiki, Brahmkumari, Sanatan Dharma but no steady data about their numbers was available since Census data is response-based and respondents tended to “change” sects every time a survey is conducted.
A senior home ministry official said, “We are still examining the proposal of the state government and a final decision is yet to be taken.” Sources said the home ministry was not in hurry to resolve the issue as the election code of conduct is in effect in Karnataka. The final decisions on minority status for Lingayats will have to wait till the declaration of the results on May 15, sources said.
The state government had notified the decision on March 22 and sent a communication to the MHA on March 23 seeking “recognition of Lingayats and Veerashaivas who follow Basavanna’s philosophy and teachings as a religious minority under section 2(c) of the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992.”