Amidst an intensified campaign for a separate religious status to Lingayat faith, Karnataka irrigation minister M B Patil on Monday accused BJP of linking the Lingayat faith with Hinduism. “The BJP has taken a stand. It has changed its position by calling Veerashaiva Lingayath a sect of Hinduism. They will not back our demand for Lingayat as a separate religion. It is apparent that Hindutva cannot accept Veerashaiva Lingayath as a separate religion,” said Patil, who is spearheading the campaign, at a press conference on Monday. He claimed that Lingayat is different from Veerashaiva.
“Lingayat is entirely different from Hinduism. It does not have caste based or any other kind of discrimination. Its founder Basaveshwara’s sayings never promoted rift among communities,” said Patil. He added that Veerashaiva sect forming only 10 per cent of the total Lingayat population does not follow the sayings of 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara. Patil also sought to allay the fear that separation of Lingayat will weaken Hinduism.
“Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism were separated from Hinduism but that did not affect or threaten Hinduism. Lingayat religion too has features making it different from Hinduism,” said Patil. Shivanand Jamdar, a retired bureaucrat and Lingayat Mahasabha Vedike general secretary, said “Hindutva forces” do not want Lingayat to be a separate religion.
As Assembly elections are due earlier next year, the demand for a separate Lingayat religion status is gaining ground among the community, concentrated largely in the northern part of Karnataka. The BJP, for which Lingayats form a significant electoral base, has so far remained non-commital on the demand.
The Mahasabha Vedike had on Sunday held a mega rally at Latur in Maharashtra, which has a huge Kannada speaking Lingayat population.