The Karnataka government, on Thursday, granted minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaivas who believe in Basava Tatva.
According to a notification issued by the Department of Minority Development Haj and Waqf, dated March 22, 2018, minority status has been granted to the community.
“According to the Karnataka State Minorities Commission Act 1994, Section 10, the state government has the right to grant minority status to communities Hence Lingayats and the Veerashaivas, who believe in Basava Tatva – Veerashaiva Lingayats have been granted minority status,” the notification reads.
Speaking to TNM, retired IAS officer, SN Jamdaar, who spearheaded the movement for a separate minority religion status for Lingayats said that the community welcomes the government’s move.
“Yes, the state government has the power to grant minority status. Even the Supreme Court Judgement in Bal Patil v/s Union of India in 2005 had stated that the power rests with the state government,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has rejected the government’s decision and called it a “move to divide the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community”.
“If you are really interested in the community say Veerashaiva and Lingayat is one and the same. Other than this, the govt is saying everything else. Don't create differences between person to person and within the community,” the Mahasabha’s statement issued on Friday said.
On Monday, the state cabinet approved Justice Nagamohan Das Committee’s recommendation to grant Lingayats and Veerashaivas who follow Basava Tatva a separate minority religion status.
Lingayats, a distinct Shaivate religious tradition, are followers of the 12th century poet-philosopher-social reformer Basaveshwara who rebelled against established Hindu tradition by defying the caste system and vedic rituals.
In their bid for a separate religion status, the Lingayats wanted to dissociate themselves from Veerashaivas, also a Shaivate religious tradition, whose followers adhere to the Vedas.
“We have been asking for the Veerashaiva faction to produce historical documents to back their claims but neither did they do it when we were discussing a joint proposal, nor are they doing it now” Jamdaar claimed.
The movement for a separate religion tag, which was started as far back as 1942, was resurrected in 2017 after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s promise to look into the demand for a separate religion status for Lingayats and Veerashaivas.
In December 2017, a seven-member expert committee was formed to study five separate demands, three of which were for a separate minority religion status for Lingayats. One representation stated that the Lingayat community members are Hindus and another demanding minority religion tag for the Veerashaiva-Lingayat sect.