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Siddaramaiah Govt Ignores Objections, Declares Lingayats a Religious Minority

The Karnataka government issued a notification despite a powerful section of the Lingayat and Veerashaiva leaders holing an emergency meeting on Friday and urging the state to withdraw its earlier order and issue a new order adding Veerashaiva to the new religion.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:March 27, 2018, 8:38 AM IST
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Siddaramaiah Govt Ignores Objections, Declares Lingayats a Religious Minority
File photo of Lingayat seers meeting Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Bengaluru: Ignoring opposition from a powerful section of the community, the Karnataka government has gone ahead and accorded religious minority status to Lingayats.

The minority welfare department of the state government issued a notification terming Lingayats “minorities”. The notification clearly states that whoever follows Basava Tatva or Philosophy will be considered a Lingayat.

Earlier in the day, a powerful section of the Lingayat and Veerashaiva leaders held an emergency meeting urging the state to withdraw its earlier order and issue a new order adding Veerashaiva to the new religion. But the state government has made no modification to its earlier stand.

They had argued that Lingayats and Veerashaivas are one and the same and the state government was misled by some experts about it. A top Congress leader and MLA Shamanur Shivashankarappa and his minister S S Mallikarjuna had asked Siddaramaiah government not to divide Lingayats and Veerashaivas.

However, the Congress government in state seems to have decided to bite the bullet by going ahead with its earlier order. This notification is likely to escalate the tension within several factions in the community and the government.

The government officials feel that adding Veerashaiva word would go against the very purpose of declaring Lingayats a religious minority because the Centre has already rejected that proposal saying that Veershaivas are Shaivaites can’t be called a separate religion.

The Lingayats are considered politically powerful in the state. Classified as Other Backward Classes, they are considered the single-largest community in the state. Their population is estimated to be anywhere between 11.5 per cent and 19 per cent. Their vote is widely believed to be decisive in nearly half of the 224 Assembly constituencies in Karnataka.

Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa on Wednesday said the state government's move to grant religious minority status to the Lingayat community was an "election gimmick" and accused Siddaramaiah of dividing people on emotional issues.

He also sought to know the need to rake up the issue of minority tag when the UPA government had rejected the separate religious status to Lingayats.

"Siddaramaiah is dividing society on emotional issues. There is not just one Lingayat-Veerashaiva...The move to give religion tag to Lingayats is an election gimmick. It is an attempt to mislead people," Yeddyurappa told reporters in Bengaluru.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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