Bengaluru: With eyes on Assembly polls, Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government on Monday decided to grant separate religion status for Lingayat community. The decision came on the basis of the recommendations of the Nagamohan Das committee report and was taken after lengthy deliberations during cabinet meeting.
The proposal will now be sent to the Centre for final approval.
The government has decided to accord minority status to Lingayats, including Veerashaivas, who follow the teachings of the patron saint of the Lingayat community amid threats from Veerashaiva Lingayat seers against recommending the minority status for Lingayats alone.
According to a report in The Indian Express, quoting the cabinet decision state law minister TB Jayachandra said, “After due deliberations and some discussion on concerns of various sections of society cabinet has decided to accept the recommendations of the state minority commission which based on the report of an expert committee headed by Justice Nagamohan Das has recommended to consider grant of recognition as religious minority to the Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat, believers of Basava Tattva, under Section 2(d) of the Karnataka Minorities Act. It was also decided to forward the same to the Central government for notifying under Section 2(d) of the Central Minority Commission Act.”
Karnataka State Minorities Commission had formed a seven-member committee in December 2017, headed by retired high court Judge HN Nagamohan Das to decide on the matter. The committee which has submitted its report on March 2 states that "Lingayats in Karnataka may be considered as religious minority."
The move is said to be an attempt to woo voters from dominant Lingayat community, which constitute 17 per cent of the state population.
Last week, a group of Veerashaiva seers met chief minister Siddaramaiah and expressed resentment over the government’s proposed move to recommend separation of Lingayats from the Hindu category of Veerashaiva Lingayats. They had threatened to launch an indefinite agitation if the government’s fails to adhere to their request.
In a memorandum to the state government they said, “If the state government intends to ensure the welfare of the community, it should then declare the Veerashaiva Lingayats as a religion.”
Lingayats, a distinct Shaivate religious tradition, are followers of the 12th century poet-social reformer Basaveshwara who rebelled against established Hindu tradition by defying the caste system and vedic rituals.
In their bid for a separate religion status, they want to dissociate themselves from Veerashaaivas, also a Shaivate religious tradition, whose followers adhere to the vedas.