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Lingayat Seers Push for Separate Religion Status in Karnataka

The request came after the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha passed a resolution last week to seek such a recommendation after consultations with people’s representatives, religious pontiffs and scholars from the Lingayat community.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:August 11, 2017, 5:00 PM IST
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Lingayat Seers Push for Separate Religion Status in Karnataka
A delegation of Lingayat seers meeting Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
Bengaluru: At least 20 seers from various Lingayat mutts have submitted a request to the Karnataka government to give the community a separate religion status.

The request came after the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha passed a resolution last week to seek such a recommendation after consultations with people’s representatives, religious pontiffs and scholars from the community.

The consultations were held over many hours on Thursday, after which a delegation met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to press for a separate religion along the lines of Sikhism, Jainism and Christianity.

Siddaramaiah accepted the resolution but remained non-committal, merely saying that the government would take a legal opinion on the issue.

Coming in an election year, the demand for a separate religion (and thus, a minority status by extension) comes as an emotive issue that the Congress can use to its advantage. The Opposition, Bharatiya Janata Party, has always thought of the Lingayat community as its captive vote-bank and sees this as an attempt to divide this vote-bank. The BJP state president hails from this community, which has a significant population in Karnataka.

“In the 12th century, Lord Basavanna founded an independent Lingayat religion, but after Independence, the Government of India failed to recognize Lingayat as a religion. Central government has already recognized Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism. In the same way, we are asking them to recognize Lingayat as a religion,” said Jagadguru Mruthyunjaya Swamiji of Panchamasali Peetha, one of the influential mutts of the community.

The CM said he had received requests from three bodies – the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha, the Mathe-Mahadevi mutt and the Lingayat Mahasabha. “The government will diligently examine the submission and will take an objective decision, abiding within the legal framework of the Constitution. There is no politics involved in this,” he told newspersons.

One of the arguments put forth by the Lingayat seers was that prominent teachings of Lord Basavanna, the founder of this ‘dharma,’ was against stratification of society into castes.

“Lord Basavanna was against such divisions, Lingayat was built on the inclusion of all different castes, sub-castes, under a single entity called Lingayat. People from backward classes, Dalits and other religion came together and formed this religion,” Swamiji said, adding that it was then questionable that they are now considered a sub-sect within Hinduism.

State minister Vinay Kulkarni, who participated in the day-long conclave, said that the proposal had been rejected at least three times earlier by the Centre, but the efforts will continue.
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