Karnataka grants separate religion status to Lingayat community

Ahead of state assembly elections, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka on Monday approved the recommendations for a separate religion status for Lingayats.
The Karnataka Cabinet after okaying the move will now write to the Union government seeking separate religion status for Lingayat.

The ball is now in the central government’s court which will have to decide if Lingayats can be recognized as belonging to an independent religion or not.

After a separate flag for the state, this is the second such move before the crucial elections by the Karnataka government.

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. (Inputs: News18 and Agencies)