Published: Tue, March 20, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Karnataka cabinet agrees to consider Lingayats a separate religion

Karnataka cabinet agrees to consider Lingayats a separate religion

Daring BJP President Amit Shah and party's Karnataka Chief Ministerial candidate B.S. Yeddyuruppa to clarify their position on the Lingayats, Congress on Monday said Karnataka cabinet's decision of granting status of religious minority to the sect should not be seen as a "political move".

The cabinet said it will send the decision to the centre for it to be notified under Section 2 (C) of the Central Minority Commission Act.

The decision had been anticipated for quite some time but the timing is interesting, as it has been taken close to the dawn of assembly elections in the state.

On March 14, the state cabinet was to meet and decide on giving a religion tag to the Lingayats but the meeting was postponed following "differences" within the cabinet, the Indian Express reported.

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The KSMC had formed a seven-member committee, headed by retired high court Judge H N Nagamohan Das in December previous year.

The Karnataka government on Monday accepted the recommendation and granted religion status to Lingayat community.

According to Jamdaar, since independence, four attempts were by the community to be counted separately in the national censuses, but they had not sought to be recognised as a minority religion. "Do not consider this as a threat but a request from the community to protect its interests", the seers said in a memorandum to the state government.

While Water Resources Minister MB Patil and Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddi - both Lingayats - had argued in favour of going ahead with the Justice Nagamohan Das Committee report, Municipal Administration Minister Eshwar Khandre and Horticulture Minister SS Mallikarjun, both Veerashaivas opposed the move. This comes off the Congress strategy to win the Lingayat votes in the state. BJP immediately called it a political stunt before elections in the state scheduled for next month.

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Lingayats, who worship Shiva as the universal god, and Veerashaiva Lingayats, together constitute the largest community (17 per cent) in the southern state, and their votes could influence the outcome of the upcoming state assembly polls in April-May.

The clashes broke out when members of Lingayat came out to celebrate cabinet's decision to approve the recommendation of a separate religion. Lingayat strongman and state BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa has been saying that his party would not allow efforts to "divide" the community.

Last week, a group of Veerashaiva leaders met Siddaramaiah and expressed resentment over the proposed move to recommend separation of Lingayats alone from the Hindu category.

Lingayat scholars, including M.M. Kalburgi who was shot dead by unidentified assailants in 2015, have always believed that Lingayats are not Hindus.

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