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Karnataka: Veerashaiva seers threaten agitation if state recommends minority status for Lingayats

The demand for a separate religion tag could have a major bearing on the upcoming Assembly election in Karnataka since the Lingayats account for nearly 17 per cent of the state’s population

By: Express News Service | Bengaluru |
March 17, 2018 3:01:20 am
Karnataka, Karnataka Lingayats Minority Status, Lingayats Minority Status, Veerashaiva Lingayat, Siddaramaiah, India News, Indian Express. Indian Express News Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah (File)

A group of Veerashaiva Lingayat seers in Karnataka have said they will launch a statewide agitation if the Congress government recommends minority status for Lingayats on the basis of the report of an expert panel on the issue. The group of seers met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah here on Thursday. “If you do not adhere to our request, we will launch an indefinite agitation and a decision has been taken through community leaders, seers, writers and lawyers. Do not consider this as a threat but a request from the community to protect its interests,” the seers said in a memorandum to the state government.

“If the state government intends to ensure the welfare of the community, it should then declare the Veerashaiva-Lingayats as a religion,’’ the memorandum stated. Siddaramaiah told the seers that he would not take any hasty decision on the matter and that he was not trying to break the community. He has in the past stated that he is willing to recommend the status of an independent religion for Lingayats to the Centre if the demand is unanimous.

The demand for a separate religion tag could have a major bearing on the upcoming Assembly election in Karnataka since the Lingayats account for nearly 17 per cent of the state’s population. The two major factions of the community are Veerashaivas and those who want to be known only as Lingayats — followers of 12th century saint Basavanna.

A state cabinet meeting was scheduled to take up the issue on March 14, but it was cancelled after differences cropped up between ministers from the Lingayat and Veerashaiva factions. While a group of Lingayat ministers in the Congress government has been at the forefront of the movement to seek a separate religion tag, another group from the Veerashaiva faction are opposed to giving the tag to Lingayats alone. If recognised as a minority religion, the Lingayats will be able to avail benefits under section 25, 28, 29 and 30 of the Constitution, say community leaders.

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A seven-member panel was constituted by Karnataka State Minorities Commission to study the demand for a separate religion status. The panel, headed by retired high court judge H N Nagamohan Das, recently asked the state to recommend to the Centre separate religion status for the community. The panel said, “Lingayats in Karnataka may be considered a religious minority. Veerashaivas, who consider Basavanna dharma guru, believe in vachanas as sacred text and wear Ishta Linga may be considered as Lingayats”.

The BJP has accused the Congress of attempting to divide the community for electoral gains, with BJP president Amit Shah calling the demand for a separate religion status a political game being played by the Congress. BJP leaders have not attended meetings of the Lingayat community demanding separation from the Hindu religion. However, the current BJP state president and the party’s CM candidate for the upcoming state polls, B S Yeddyurappa, was a signatory to the demand in 2013 when he had floated his own party, the KJP, after briefly parting ways with the BJP.

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