The raging political debate on the issue of separate religion status Lingayats may be put on the backburner with the seven-member expert committee constituted by the state government seeking an additional six months to come out with its report.
"Four weeks is not enough, given the seriousness and importance of the subject we are dealing with here. This is an unprecedented development in India. There‚Äôs a huge responsibility on the committee and we want to do a proper, scientific job. So, the committee has decided to seek six months time from the government to submit our report," former Karnataka High Court Judge Justice HN Nagmohan Das, chairman of the committee, told the media.
The members of the committee include political scientist Muzaffar Assadi, former Chairman of the Karnataka Backward Classes Commission CS Dwarakanath, head of the Kannada Chair at JNU, Purushothama Bilimale, Chairman of the Kannada Development Authority SG Siddaramaiah and senior journalist Sarjoo Katkar.
He added that they will seek appointment of a woman member in the committee too.
A total of 36 representations are being looked into currently, he said, while adding that the last date for submitting a petition was January 25.
The additional time was sought with various groups representing the community voicing their opposition to forming a separate religion from the combined Lingayat-Veerashaiva community.
The BJP has firmly opposed the idea of a separate religion status.
According to some political experts, the demand for separate religion for Lingayats, as advocated by Mines and Geology Minister Vinay Kulkarni, Water Resources Minister MB Patil and Higher Education Minister Basavaraj Rayareddy, had the potential to breach the traditional BJP vote bank in favour of the Congress ahead of the 2018 polls.
There is also confusion on whether the separate religion tag is demanded for the Lingayat-Veerashaiva combine or only Lingayats.
There is a faction within the Congress top brass itself which believes that Veerashaivas and Lingayats are the same and claim that the religion existed before Basavanna‚Äôs time (12th century).
The state government had formed a special committee of experts to study the matter before referring the matter to the minorities commission. CM Siddaramaiah maintains that the Congress has no role in the issue and the ministers had advocated the cause in their personal capacities.
Under the National Commission for Minorities Act, the Centre has the power to accord minority religious status to a community.
However, the committee report might have little bearing on the matter in actuality now with the Karnataka High Court saying that the verdict of two petitions challenging the minority status demand will override the committee findings.
But the division bench led by acting chief justice HG Ramesh did not pass an interim stay order on the proceedings while stating the matter required a detail hearing.