NEW DELHI: In a move that is expected to have a huge impact on the upcoming assembly elections in Karnaraka, the Siddaramaiah government decided on Monday to declare Lingayats as a religious minority and include the Veerashaivas who follow Basavanna as a group within the community.
According to analysts, the move could make or mar the electoral prospects of the ruling Congress.
How the Lingayats can influence the Karnataka poll outcome
* The Lingayats have an influence on nearly 100 seats in the 224-member assembly.
* The Lingayat community, which makes up 17% of the state’s population and is the largest chunk, traditionally supports the BJP, especially in northern Karnataka.
* The latest move appears to be a bid by Congress to split BJP’s Lingayat vote base.The Congress hopes the move will get them support from the Lingayat community.
* The Congress also hopes its decision to lob the ball into the Centre’s court will leave the BJP in a bind. “Now, the onus is on the Centre. If it doesn’t give minority status to the community, it will definitely antagonize it. If it does, then we will claim the credit,” a leader said.
* In addition, the inclusion of Veerashaiva-Lingayats in the recommendation has doused discontent among Veerashaivas to a large extent, which would work in favour of the Congress.
On the ground though, Lingayats feel it is gimmick by the Congress before the polls, which means the move could backfire.
Meanwhile, to garner support and keep the issue alive till the elections, Lingayat ministers in the state government have planned a huge rally in Bengaluru where they plan to felicitate chief minister Siddaramaiah for according the community religious minority status.
* The BJP has expressed its opposition to the decision. According to the party declaring Lingayats as a religious minority would split society further and introduce more cleavages in the socio-economic fabric.
* BJP leaders are of the view that the Siddaramaiah government’s decision may not translate into votes for the Congress. Though the decision may have pleased the Lingayats, however its benefits will take time to reach the community, according to the BJP.
* The BJP has accused the Karnataka CM of “playing with fire” for vote bank politics.
People belonging to Veershaiva community protesting against the decision (PTI )
Who are Lingayats
* Lingayats are followers of 12th-century social reformer Basavanna and his vachana (verses) philosophy. Their beliefs, practices and faith are different. Veerashaivas worship Lord Shiva, the one mentioned in Hindu mythology. However, the Shiva that Basavanna referred to in his vachanas (verses) is not the Hindu god Shiva but the ishtalinga (formless God), which people of the community wear around their neck.
* BJP state president B S Yeddyuprappa and BJP leader Jagadish Shettar are notable political leaders from the Lingayat community.
Who are Veerashaivas
* Veerashaivas are a sub-sect of Lingayats and ardent followers of Lord Shiva. They preceded Basavanna, the founder of Lingayatism. Veerashaivism has its roots in the Vedas and Agamas, and Veerashaivas do not worship any god other than Shiva
* They are spread across Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
* All Veerashaiva sects follow the ‘Pancha Peeta’ or five mutts — Kashi mutt, Rameswaram mutt, Ujjaini mutt, Rambhapura mutt and Srishaila mutt, the core holy places for the community.* There are 92 sub-castes among Lingayats and Veerashaivas are one among them.
* Veerashaiva seers, led by the panchacharyas (five powerful seers) had opposed granting religious minority status to Lingayats alone. Some threatened to campaign against Congress in the assembly polls.* While Lingayats were demanding recognition as a separate religion and not be identified as Hindus, Veerashaivas had opposed it on the ground that Veerashaivas and Lingayats are one and the same.
* To pacify this section, the cabinet decided to include Veerashaiva-Lingayats as a group within the Lingayat community. The government made it clear the Veerashaivas are a sub-sect of Lingayats.
Basavanna was a 12th-century social reformer. The revolution that Basavanna led came years after the Buddha. It was Basavanna and his contemporary Sharanas who launched a very strong spiritual, social and religious rebellion against Brahminical hegemony. Basavanna had declared that “work is worship”. He gave women equal status in his movement through the vachanas (verses). In order to take the social movement closer to the people, Basavanna and all the other Sharanas voiced their concerns in simple Kannada vachanas so that even lay people could comprehend them.
Why do Lingayats want a separate identity
Lingayats have been revolting against oppression and discrimination by the Veerashaivas, who are politically and economically a dominant group within the community. Lingayats allege that Veerashaivas are attempting to destroy the revolutionary faith founded by Basavanna by portraying Lingayatism and Veerashaivism as the same. Moreover, they feel the Veerashaivas are not giving their guru his due, as he had rejected caste hierarchy and Vedic rituals.How will the community benefit
* For the moment, there will not be any change in reservation for education and jobs since the state government has left it to the Centre to take a decision on the issue.
* Sources said Lingayats will continue to enjoy 15 per cent reservation under categories 2A and 3B. Any increase in quota for Lingayats will be decided only after the Centre accords minority status to them, and considers the impact of this on existing quotas.
* They will able to avail benefits under section 25 of the Constitution. These include freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion.
* They will also get benefits under section 28, which includes freedom in terms of attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.
* Section 29, which includes protection of interests of minorities, and section 30, which includes the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions, will also be applicable.
After accepting the recommendation of the seven-member panel headed by retired judge Justice Nagamohan Das to grant religious minority status to “Lingayats and Veerashaiva-Lingayats (believers of Basava philosophy)” the Cabinet will ratify an official notification to this effect at its next meeting, which could be as early as the following week.It will then recommend to the Centre that the community be granted religious minority status. Essentially it will be up to the Centre to decide to accept the state government’s recommendation.
Who said what
Though it looks like a carefully drawn strategy of the Congress, I don’t think it will stand to gain much in terms of electoral benefits. In fact, the party might lose some votes as there is a feeling among common voters among Lingayats that the Siddaramaiah government has divided them – Harish Ramaswamy, Expert
Recommendation has been made for granting independent religious minority status to people who follow and believe in Bavasanna’s philosophies. We hope the Centre will accept and grant the status to the community – Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah
CM Siddaramaiah, by dividing the religion, is playing divisive politics. By seeking Justice Nagamohan Das’ report in a hurry and planning to send it to the Centre, the government had ignored the suggestion of pontiffs and seers of Lingayat mutts. Instead of resolving the problems of the people, the decision to divide people on religious lines is not right. the government will repent its decision in the coming days – HD Kumaraswamy, JD(U) State President
We have taken a stand that the BJP will abide by the decision taken by the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha – B S Yeddyurappa, BJP State President
We accept the decision of the cabinet meeting headed by CM Siddaramaiah. He has made the decision to do justice to borth Veerashaivas and Lingayats and this is acceptable to us – Shamanur Shivashankarappa, Akhila BHarata Veerashaiva Mahasabha chairman
In 2014, Jains got minority status
* On Jan 20, 2014, the Congress government at the centre approved the notification of Jains as a minority community at the national level.
* The Jains became the sixth community to be granted such status after Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Parsis.
* Jains are about 0.4% of India’s population and in the 2001 census, were about 42 lakh-strong. In 2014 when they were granted minority status, their population was estimated at around 50 lakh; Mumbai accounted for the largest number of about 10% (or 4-5 lakh).* The community already enjoyed minority status in some states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan but the Cabinet decision extended that status across the country.
* In 2005, a petition for minority status was filed in the Supreme Court by community representatives, which was also backed by the National Minorities Commission. In its judgement the court left the decision to the Centre.* The proposal that was pushed by then minority affairs minister K Rahman Khan and then Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was viewed by some as a political move, months ahead of the general election.
Source:Times Of India