Ready to recommend separate religion status for Veerashaiva-Lingayat community: Siddaramaiah

BENGALURU: As clamor grows for granting separate religion status to the dominant Veerashaiva-Lingayat community, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he was yet to receive any requisition in this regard.

“Requisition has not yet come, how will the recommendation come? I have said if you all (community leaders) together give a requisition, the government will consider it,” he told reporters in response to a question about sending a recommendation to the Union government in this regard.

His comment came at a time when the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has said there is no question of going back on the demand for a separate religion status.

Stating that the proposal to this effect was made to then Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde during the UPA rule, Mahasabha President and senior Congress MLA Shamanur Shivashankarappa said it did not attain finality as the government fell.

“At a felicitation to the Chief Minister for making it compulsory to have Basaveshwara’s photo at Government offices, we had made a request that a separate religion recommendation be sent to the central government… He has agreed… There is no question of going back, Veerashaiva-Lingayat as an independent religion status,” he said.

The demand for a separate religion status gained momentum after Siddaramaiah reportedly gave an assurance at an event organized by the Mahasabha that he was ready to recommend to the Centre to make Veerashaiva-Lingayata separate religion status if the entire community evolved a consensus.

At least five ministers from Karnataka have announced plans to tour the state to gather opinion about separate religion status from community leaders and mutt pontiffs.

Minister for Mines and Geology Vinay Kulkarni alleged that no one, including Karnataka BJP chief B S Yeddyurappa, who hails from the community, had taken steps to realise the long standing demand for a separate religion.

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“The Chief Minister is taking steps towards it on our request and it is our duty to support him,” he said.

“The Chief Minister was in a hurry, we have already requested him. Pontiffs from all mutts will be coming to Bengaluru to convince…,” he said when asked about the CM’s statement on not yet getting any such requisition.

The Veerashaiva-Lingayat community that pays allegiance to the 12th century “social reform movement” initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state.

They are also present in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana, among others.

On July 19, a mammoth rally in Bidar was held marking the revival of the demand for a separate religion.

“Lingayats are not Hindus and neither are they a backward caste. Just like Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, we too want the status of a minority religion,” Mate Mahadevi, Head of the Basava Dharma Peetha told TNM.

Slamming the BJP state president and former Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa who opposed to the move to give Veerashaiva-Lingayat separate religion status, Mate Mahadevi said that the BJP veteran knows nothing about “Lingayat Dharma”.

“Since Yeddyurappa is with the BJP, he has sided with the RSS and Hindu organisations. He knows nothing about the Lingayat community. Being a Lingayat man himself, he has betrayed the community by siding with the Hindus. He is doing what his party is telling him to, without any concern for the community,” Mate Mahadevi added.

There is also resentment within for projecting Lingayats and Veerashaivas as one and the same, as a section of Lingayats feel that Veerashaiva is one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.

With PTI inputs