Members of the agitation demanding a separate religious tag for Lingayats launched the Vishwa Lingayat Parishat on Tuesday. This will act as a parallel body to the All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha.
The creation of this new forum marks the Lingayats officially splitting from the Veerashaivas, in their quest to be named as a separate religion.
The All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha has been in existence since 1914, but negotiations between the Lingayat and Veerashaiva groups over presenting a joint proposal demanding a separate religion status had reached a dead end.
The Vishwa Lingayat Parishat will be led by Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Karnataka Minister Basavaraj Horatti. Medical Education Minister Sharanprakash R Patil was appointed as State President, Water Resources Minister MB Patil was named as Working President and retired IAS officer SM Jamdaar, who is spearheading the campaign, was appointed as the General Secretary.
Speaking to The Hindu after the launch, Basavaraj claimed that over 500 members of the All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha had resigned and joined the new organisation.
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.
Veerashaivas are also a Shaivate religious tradition, whose followers adhere to the Vedas. While the All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha had earlier contended that Lingayats and Veerashaivas were the same and there were no differences between them, the Lingayat camp argued that they are markedly different. The two groups have now submitted separate proposals to the state government seeking a separate religion tag.
The newly formed forum will renew the Lingayatsâ€™ push for a separate religion status and they are hopeful that the expert committee constituted by the State Minorities Commission will accept their proposal. â€śWe regret to do this, but we have no choice because we have been demanding this for 8 months now and we have seen that the process is being delayed,â€ť said Jamdaar.
Despite the movementâ€™s leaders dissociating their demands from political motives, their claim is supported by Mines and Geology Minister Vinay Kulkarni, Water Resources Minister MB Patil and Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddy, all part of the ruling Congress government.
Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, meanwhile, are opposed to the movement and consider Lingayats to be part of the Hindu religion, while JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda has accused the Congress of trying to divide the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community
The movement, which was started in 1942, was resurrected earlier this year by Chief Minister Siddaramaiahâ€™s promise to look into the demand for a separate religion tag for Lingayats and Veerashaivas. Karnataka is set to go to polls later this year in May.
An expert committee is now reviewing the claims for a separate religion tag. The committeeâ€™s recommendations will then be studied by the state government before a decision is taken.