Karnataka Govt Okays Separate Religion Status for Lingayats, Ball in Centre’s Court Now

Karnataka has always been a cyclical state since the 1989 elections. In 1985, the then Siddaramaiah's boss Ramakrishna Hegde had won a second consecutive term. After that no political party has ever been able to retain the state for two consecutive terms.

Bengaluru: The Congress-led Karnataka government has okayed separate religion status for the state’s powerful Lingayat community in keeping with an expert panel’s recommendations. The recommendations will now be forwarded to the BJP-led Centre, which will take a final call on the politically sensitive issue.

The Siddaramaiah government’s decision comes a day after a group of Lingayat seers met the Chief Minister and urged him to implement the report of the committee.

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.

While one section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha had demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other wanted it only for Lingayats as it believes that Veerashaivasare one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.

The BJP — whose state unit president and CM face BS Yeddyurappa is a Lingayat — has maintained a cautious stance on the issue. It has accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of the assembly elections this year.

Lingayats are the followers of 12th-century social reformer and mystic Basavanna or Basaveshwara, who revolted against the caste system in Hinduism. Basavanna was a Brahmin, but he opposed Brahminical practices and hegemony by founding a casteless religion called "Lingayats". They worship Shiva Linga and are not supposed to follow any Hindu rituals. Over 18% population in Karnataka is Lingayat.