A senior Karnataka Minister on Tuesday termed the state cabinet's decision to grant religious minority tag to only Lingayat and Veerashaiva followers of 12th century social reformer Basava as an injustice to the entire community.
"The state government's decision to provide religious minority to only those who believed in Basava's philosophy is wrong and the height of injustice," state Horticulture Minister S. Shivashankarappa told reporters at Davangere.
Admitting that initially he expressed happiness over the decision, the 86-year-old veteran Lingayat leader said he realised that it (decision) was one-sided after he went through the details of the cabinet note.
The minister, however, was not present at the cabinet meeting where the recommendation was deliberated and approved unanimously.
Refuting the observations of the committee that recommended the recognition, the minister said claims of its report that Veerashaiva faith did not exist before 12th century or Basava was incorrect, as Panchacharyas founded the Veerashaiva, which is an ancient religion.
"We still stick to our stand that both Veerashaivas and Lingayats are one and the same. We will never approve the government's decision," he reiterated after the Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha opposed to the rider that only those who believed in Basava philosophy would get the recognition.
The state government had set up an expert committee, headed by former Karnataka High Court Justice H.N. Nagamohan Das under the Karnataka State Minorities Commission to consider the community's demand for a separate religious tag.
The committee submitted the report to the state government on March 2, favouring The committee submitted its report on March 2, 2018 recommending religious minority status for the community.
Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats, who worship Hindu deity Shiva as their universal god, are the largest community (17 per cent) in the state, whose votes could influence the outcome of the state assembly election in April-May.
"The Mahasabha will meet in Bengaluru on March 23 to discuss the decision and chalk out the next course of action," said Shivashankarappa as its head.
The Siddaganga Mutt, however, welcomed the decision to accord the recognition to those who follow Basava's philosophy.
"We always stressed the all-inclusive attitude regarding the issue. We are happy as the government has included Lingayats and Veerashaiva in its recommendation," Mutt's junior pontiff Siddalinga Swami told reporters at Tumakuru.
The decision is expected to benefit the community academically and industrially.
"Jains follow certain rituals of Hinduism. Yet, Jainism was recognised as an independent religion. The status of an independent religion to a faith won't affect the existence of Hinduism," added the ponitiff.