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Lingayat Seers Amp up Pressure on Siddaramaiah for Separate Religion Status, Veerashaivas Oppose it

The issue of a separate religion for Lingayats has put the Siddaramaiah government in a bind. With over 50 Lingayat seers, led by the Mathe Mahadevi, meeting the Chief Minister to press for an early decision, the pressure is mounting on the state government to recommend a separate religion status for Lingayats to the Centre.

Deepa Balakrishnan | CNN-News18deepab18

Updated:March 18, 2018, 6:57 PM IST
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Lingayat Seers Amp up Pressure on Siddaramaiah for Separate Religion Status, Veerashaivas Oppose it
The Lingayat seers meeting Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah to press for a separate religion status for their community.
Bengaluru: The issue of a separate religion for Lingayats has put the Siddaramaiah government in a bind. With over 50 Lingayat seers, led by the Mathe Mahadevi, meeting the Chief Minister to press for an early decision, the pressure is mounting on the state government to recommend a separate religion status for Lingayats to the Centre.

This comes just three days after another group of seers of the Veerashaiva community met the CM, to demand that Lingayats should not be considered a separate religion as Veerashaivas and Lingayats are two sects with the same beliefs.

Sunday's meeting though wanted the CM to act immediately on the report of the government-appointed committee, headed by a retired judge, which felt there was enough credible evidence to look at Lingayats as a separate religious entity along the lines of Buddhism or Islam.

The state cabinet is to decide on the issue at its meeting on Monday afternoon.

While the Lingayat community says they are the true followers of saint Basaveshwara, who advocated a casteless society, and distance themselves from Hinduism, and want to be treated as minorities on a par with Jains and Buddhists; the Veerashaiva seers, on the other hand, have told the CM that both communities are one and the same, and they both worship Lord Shiva.

The Veerashaiva say if their memorandum is not considered, they would launch a protest against the Congress party in the coming days. It further said that people from all walks of life would participate in the protest.

The Lingayat seers, who came from all across Karnataka and held a satyagraha ahead of their meeting with the CM, said they too will decide on their future course of action if the Cabinet does not respond with a "positive decision on being considered a separate entity" on Monday. They even held a padayatra from the CM's house shouting slogans in support of their demands, and said their collective leadership will decide the way forward.

"The Veerashaiva swamis are 'hijack swamis.' The government committee report in fact makes a distinction between the Veerashaivas and the Lingayats very beautifully. Islam may have two sects -- the Sunnis, the Shia, both of whom hold the Quran as holy. Jains may have Swethambaras and Digambaras, both of who go by the same preachings and guru. But Lingayats go by the Vachanas as our holy scriptures, we believe in a totally non-discriminatory society without caste and gender biases; this is not true of Veerashaivas, they are different," said Dr Shivamurthy Muruga swami of the Muruga mutt. They need the government to give a final shape to their identity, he added.

Mathe Mahadevi, who spoke to the media right after the meeting with the CM, also said that certain fears that recommending for a separate religion status may lead to violence or rioting were unfounded, and the government should not yield to such reports.

"He has said he is yet to consult the Advocate General, that’s the only thing left," she said. She is the first female 'Jagadguru' or spiritual leader of the community.

The seers have put the government in a dilemma. Until now, Lingayats, who form a significant votebank in Karnataka, have been perceived as supporters of the BJP as it is headed by a Lingayat, BS Yeddyurappa. Under the circumstances, the Congress government had thought division within the community on this issue could yield them electoral gains.

However, with demands from religious leaders on both sides, this is turning out to be an issue that could boomerang on the Siddaramaiah government, which is why the government has been putting off a decision on it for many weeks now.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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