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Seer tells Siddaramaiah to recommend minority religious status for Lingayats

Lingayat leaders and religious heads insist their religion was born out of a revolution against Vedic society.

karnataka Updated: Nov 19, 2017 23:06 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Siddaramaiah,Karnataka assembly polls,Lingayat community
Mate Mahadevi (extreme right), pontiff of the Basava Dharma Peetha and others at the annual convention of the Lingayat Mahasabha in Bengaluru on Sunday.(HT Photo)

Lingayat leaders and religious heads on Sunday urged Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah to ensure separate religious status for the community before the forthcoming Assembly elections.

At the annual convention of the Lingayat Mahasabha, Mate Mahadevi, the influential pontiff of the Basava Dharma Peetha, set the chief minister a deadline of December 30 for sending his recommendation to the central government in this regard.

“Elections are due next year and once the model code of conduct comes into force it will not be possible for the government to do so. Hence, I call on the chief minister to make the recommendation by December 30,” Mahadevi said.

Among her five demands is one that Lingayats be recognised as a separate minority religion.

“The chief minister must also announce that Basavanna is the cultural leader of the state,” she said, referring to the 12th century reformer, who founded of the sect.

Demands for recognising Lingayats as a separate religion got a fillip after the chief minister announced earlier this year that he would do so if that was a unanimous demand of the community. The community itself has been split, especially on the question of the sect’s name, with one section calling it Veerashaiva and another calling it Lingayat.

Mahadevi said this was a problem the community had faced only after Independence. “Before that even the British had recognised ours as a religion separate from Hinduism. But unfortunately we lost our freedom after the country gained Independence,” she said.

Mahadevi said it was wrong to classify Basavanna as a Hindu reformer as he had rejected its very basis, the varnashrama dharma. “However, Veerashaivas follow the agama shastras, vedas and upanishads, so they are not a part of the Lingayat sect. In fact, they were brahmins from Andhra Pradesh,” she said.

At the convention, state ministers MB Patil and Vinay Kulkarni, who have been part of the movement demanding separate religious status, also lent their support for the demands.

Kulkarni said the movement was not against any particular community. “Some people say we are trying to break Hindu religion, but that is not true... Anybody born in Hindustan is a Hindu. But within that we are Lingayat religion. Like Muslims had Mohammed, Christians had Christ, Buddhists had Buddha, and Sikhs had Guru Nanak, we have Basavanna,” he said.

Read more: How to get a religion: Veerashaivas and Lingayats stake their claim in Karnataka

Referring to some Veerashaiva leaders who have claimed that the two names are of the same sect and that it is part of Hinduism, Kulkarni said, “We have only one request. You demand what you want, but just leave us out of it so that we can make our demand for separate religion status.”

Patil, meanwhile, said that he had himself signed a petition calling for Veerashaiva-Lingayat to be recognised as a separate religion.

“But that petition was rejected thrice. Then I got thinking about the reason for this, and then it became clear that as long as the name Veerashaiva is used it will be considered as a branch of Shaivite philosophy and a part of Hindu religion.”

Patil said after this realisation he went about gathering facts and realised that the religion had to be called Lingayat. “Only in 2014, Jains were recognised as a minority religion. I want to ask (BJP president) Amit Shah if the Hindu religion was broken when Jains and Sikhs were called a minority? Why are these allegations made only when Lingayats have raised this demand?”

SM Jamdar, a retired IAS officer, who is at the forefront of the agitation, said he had documents that showed that a conspiracy had been hatched to include Lingayats in Hindu religion.

“In the Census of 1871, Lingayats were classified as a separate religious group. But this changed in the 1981 Census thanks to the conspiracy of the then Diwan of Mysore,” Jamdar said. “The British even had a Lingayat regiment,” he added.

Jamdar said the Lingayat religion was born out of a revolution against Vedic society. “The basic tenets of Hindu religion were rejected,” he said. “We are not asking for a new religion to be formed, but that an existing religion be recognised officially as being separate from Hinduism.”

First Published: Nov 19, 2017 19:58 IST