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RSS Opposes Separate Lingayat Religion, Movement Leaders Say We Don't Need Your Approval

The Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka has agreed to accord separate religion and minority status to the Lingayats though the entire community is not united in their fight for a separate religion or for minority status.

D P Satish | CNN-News18dp_satish

Updated:March 14, 2018, 11:13 AM IST
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RSS Opposes Separate Lingayat Religion, Movement Leaders Say We Don't Need Your Approval
Lingayats took out a rally in Bidar seeking an independent religion status (File photo/ Twitter/@Lingayatas)
Bengaluru: The just concluded RSS conclave at its headquarters in Nagpur has opposed separate religion tag for the Lingayats, claim separate Lingayat movement leaders in Karnataka.

According to them, RSS is opposing even minority status to them on the grounds that it will further divide Hindu religion. But it has not gone down well with the activists, who are pushing the government to accord a separate religion or at least a minority status to Lingayats.

In the meantime, the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka has agreed to accord separate religion and minority status to the Lingayats. The government constituted committee, headed by a retired high court judge Justice Nagamohan Das, has already recommended minority status to them and the state cabinet is expected to approve it and send the recommendation to the Centre, putting the ball in PM Modi's court.

But the entire community is not united in their fight for a separate religion or for minority status.

The Veerashaivas want the religion to be called Veerashaiva or Veerashaiva– Lingayat. But the hardcore Lingayats want the religion to be called just Lingayat religion and no Veerashaiva. They claim that Veerashaiva is a part of Hindu Vedic traditions and Lingayat religion is against all Vedic practices.

It has complicated the matters for Siddaramaiah, who is backing the movement. His own government is divided over the issue. Water Resources minister MB Patil, who is spearheading the movement, wants them to be known as just Lingayats. But a veteran Congress leader and MLA Shamanur Shivashankarappa is opposing and demanding Veerashaiva to be included in the name. He is also the president of All India Veerashaiva Lingayat Mahasabha.

The five most powerful seers of Veerashaiva sect among the Lingayats are called Panchacharyas. They are opposing a separate religion tag. It has angered the people who want an independent religion tag.

SM Jamadar, retired IAS officer and leader of the separate Lingayat religion movement, told News18 that he did not care about what Veerashaiva seers and leaders thought about the movement. He said, "We don't care about these people and their claims. Lingayats are not Hindus and we will never accept that we are also Hindus. Our religion founded by Basavanna is a casteless religion. Hinduism is caste ridden. We are not Hindus. We will continue our fight for a separate religion. It does not matter if the government recognises it or not. It makes no difference to us".

Commenting on the RSS opposition to separate religion tag, Jamadar said that it was not new. He said: "The RSS chief M Bhagwat came to Bengaluru 10 months ago. He had opposed our movement. All of us know that RSS is against us. Since we are not Hindus, we don't need RSS' approval".

He also reiterated that they will be called only Lingayats, and Veerashaiva sect can't dictate terms to them. Even MB Patil says he agrees with him.

The BJP, whose core vote bank is Lingayats, is treading cautiously keeping in mind the sensitivities involved. Its CM face BS Yeddyurappa, himself a Lingayat, is trying his best to stay away from the debate. Speaking to News18, he said: "Siddaramaiah is dividing us for votes. He won't succeed. Lingayats and Veerashaivas are one and the same."

According separate religion or minority status to Lingayats is worrying Muslims and Christians. Their leaders fear that the politically and economically powerful Lingayats may corner most of the privileges meant for them.

Reacting to this, MB Patil said that there was no need for them to worry about it as the Lingayats would not take anything away from Muslims and Christians. He is also likely to meet Muslim and Christian leaders in the state to convince them.

Lingayats are followers of the 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 Lingayats.

Only time will tell if the Congress' plan to woo them by granting separate religion status works.

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| Edited by: Bijaya Das
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