It’s not all doom and gloom even in these trying times of divisiveness as India’s secular pluralism faces a severe challenge in the citizenship law, the first ingredient in a cocktail of three-letter acronyms, along with NPR and NRC. Amid conflicts, it is spiritually uplifting that a young Muslim was chosen to head a new Lingayat mutt in North Karnataka.
It isn’t unusual in Gadag for men of any community to head the jatra committee. Those with faith in Basava philosophies and who is religious have held the honour from time to time, and Sharief Mulla is the choice now. This may be unusual to religions that are more doctrinaire, but Basavana or Basaveswara, the 12th century poet-philosopher-saint who went on to establish the Lingayat faith while serving as the local king’s treasurer, was a thinker way ahead of his time.
Imagine a teenager’s search for enlightenment after renouncing his high birth and cutting the sacred thread in that day and age, and going on to preach the immorality of caste and the intrinsic value of people born poor. What a visionary. But Basava’s radicalism was to prove near fatal to him as his king didn’t take kindly to an inter-caste marriage he arranged of an outcaste boy with a brahmin girl, and he had to flee while Kalyana was consumed by riots featuring his followers: the Virashaivas.
Lingayats have sought recognition of their being distinct from Hindu-ism, a move that didn’t get the Centre’s support despite a JDS(S)-Congress government granting it two years ago, or a caste within Hinduism. Amid complications like these comes the touching act of the Lingayats of one village being bold enough to appoint a Muslim as head of the mutt.