The Karnataka election may be over but the Lingayat issue is back on the table once again.
Lingayat and Veerashaiva groups are now looking to hold talks over making a joint bid for separate religion status.
This was confirmed by SN Jamdaar, the retired IAS officer who spearheaded the Lingayat movement for separate religion status. The latest development comes at a time when the Centre is yet to confirm whether it has accepted or rejected the proposal sent by the previous Siddaramaiah government for according separate minority religion status for Lingayats and Veerashaivas, who follow Basava Tatva.
A few unconfirmed reports aired on news channels had claimed that the Lingayat bid for separate religion had been rejected.
"We do not have a confirmation yet on the Centre rejecting the proposal. What we do know is that some feelers have been sent to us (by Veerashaiva groups) but no concrete decision has been taken about having meetings," said Jamdaar speaking to TNM.
Jamdaar, however, added that both the Lingayat and Veerashaiva factions are in agreement over two key issues. "Except for one small issue, there isnâ€™t much of a difference of opinion. The two issues on which Veerashaiva Mahasabha have already agreed are crucial. They (Veerashaivas) have claimed that we are not Hindus, just as we have also done. Their (Veerashaivas) request of being considered a separate, independent minority religion is also identical to our request," he said.
According to him, the difference of opinion was in relation to naming the new religion. "Only when it comes to the point about whether it should be Veerashaiva or Lingayat-Veerashaiva, there was a difference of opinion. They are adamant that it should be Veerashaiva and we didn't agree with them because history, philosophy says that Veerashaiva has been one of the sub-groups under the larger umbrella of the religion following Basavanna. Let them continue like that," he added.
The movement for a separate religion tag, which was started as far back as 1942, was resurrected in 2017 after then Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiahâ€™s promise to look into the demand for a separate religion status for Lingayats and Veerashaivas.
While both groups earlier stood united in their demand for separate religion status, divisions emerged between the leaders spearheading the Lingayat movement and the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha, which represents the Veerashaiva-Lingayat sect.
After negotiations broke down, both groups submitted separate proposals, which were studied by an expert committee formed by the government in December 2017. The committee recommended a â€˜religious minority tagâ€™ for Lingayats. It concluded that there is enough evidence to differentiate Lingayat from Hindu religion, and also added that Veerashaivas, who were followers of Basavanna, too can be part of the larger umbrella of â€˜Lingayat religionâ€™.
The recommendation was sent to the Union government on March 19 putting the ball in the Centreâ€™s court.
Jamdaar confirmed that there was no question of toning down the Lingayat demand for separate religion. "They (Veerashaivas) have initiated contact and we have not yet rejected it because initially we had offered to negotiate with them. They did not agree even after four months of continued efforts to engage with them," explained Jamdaar.
"They didn't want to hear because the truth is bitter for them. If they come along, we will welcome it. If we tone down our demand, the whole movement loses importance," he added.
Meanwhile, former Water Resources Minister MB Patil, who was also a vocal advocate of the Lingayat bid for separate religion denied suggestions that the talks between Lingayat and Veerashaiva groups were engineered after Lingayat leaders were ignored for cabinet berths by the JD(S)-Congress coalition government. "I have not spoken about the issue," he said.