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Karnataka Govt Approves Minority Religion Status for Lingayats



New Delhi: Struggle for reservation is not solely a struggle for equality but also for power. The latest addition to the never-ending list is the ‘Lingayat community’. The Congress government in Karnataka accepted the recommendation of expert panel report which favors identifying Lingayat as a religion separate from Hinduism and to include the Veerashaivas who follow Basavanna as a group within the community. Siddaramiah government will send the report to the central government for consideration and approval at the earliest. The BJP has accused the Karnataka CM of “playing with fire” for vote bank politics.

Lingayatism is a distinct Shaivite religious tradition in India that was founded in the 12th century by Guru Basaveshwara. He reformed the community and gave an organized structure. Lingayats are staunch worshippers of the God Shiva, but what distinguishes them from Brahminical Hindus is, they rejected the hierarchical structure of discrimination based on cast. Basaveshawara’s philosophy is based on freedom to all humans, equality, rationality, and brotherhood. Since ages, they have been identified as a sect of Hinduism but they were against it, and have always demanded status of a separate religion.

Veerashaivas are a sub-sect of Lingayats and ardent followers of Lord Shiva. They preceded Basavanna, the founder of Lingayatism. Veerashaivism has its roots in the Vedas and Agamas, and they only worship Lord Shiva.

All Veerashaiva sects follow the ‘Pancha Peeta’ or five mutts – Kashi mutt, Rameswaram mutt, Ujjaini mutt, Rambhapura mutt and Srishaila mutt. Lingayats have 92 sub-castes and Veerashaivas are one among them.

Why are ‘Lingayats’ important in Karnataka Politics?

Lingayats makes a significant number, 17 percent of Karnataka, which makes them numerically and politically strong community of the state. They wield considerable influence on nearly 100 seats in the 224-member assembly. The move of granting minority status has come right before when Assembly election is only months away.

The community has traditionally been a supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party. With this move, Congress party is hoping to break the traditional vote bank of the BJP. The Congress party is trying hard to project this decision as non-political but this gamble can turn against them and unite Hindus against Congress for dividing the community. The political implication of this order will be significant in deciding the future of the grand old party in the Southern part of the country.