Published: Mon, March 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Karnataka cabinet approves demand to treat Lingayats as a separate religious minority

Karnataka cabinet approves demand to treat Lingayats as a separate religious minority

In a significant move, the Congress government in poll-bound Karnataka today made a decision to recommend to the Centre granting religious minority tag to the numerically strong and politically influential Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat communities.

Briefing reporters after a cabinet meeting, Karnataka Law Minister T B Jayachander said that the recommendation would be made under Section 2d of the Karnataka Minorities Act and that it was chose to forward the same to the Centre under Section 2c of the Central Minority Commission Act.

The Karnataka State Minorities Commission had formed a seven-member committee, headed by retired High Court judge H N Nagamohan Das, on the issue.

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The Veerashaiva-Lingayat community that owes allegiance to the 12th century "social reform movement" initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state.

The seer alleged that the report submitted by Justice Nagmohan Das committee, recommending separate religion for Lingayats, is biased in nature. "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". Of what was being seen as a long-time proposal by the Siddaramaiah government, it has now accepted suggestions of the state-constituted panel headed by Justice HN Nagamohan Das. The Chief Minister should implement the report and accord separate status to Lingayat community, the Tontadarya math swamiji was quoted by the PTI. During his recent visit to Karnataka, BJP president Amit Shah downplayed the issues of a separate flag and separate religion status for Lingayats, terming these as a "political game" being played by the Congress. Yeddyurappa had said past year in a rally that there was no difference between Veerashaivas and Lingayats and they were very much part of Hinduism.

The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths had surfaced from the numerically strong and politically-influential community, amidst resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same. One part of the community demands the minority status for both Veerashaiva and Lingayats considering them the same, while another wants it only for the Lingayats as it considers Veershaivas to be Hindus. This comes off the Congress strategy to win the Lingayat votes in the state.

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