Retired IAS officer SM Jamdaar, who is spearheading the Lingayat movement for a separate religion tag, announced that a Lingayat Parishat will be established on January 23.
Speaking at a press conference in Bengaluru, SM Jamdaar confirmed the creation of the Vishwa Lingayat Parishat complete with a women’s wing (Mahila Vedike) and youth wing (Yuva Vedike). The newly created forum will intensify the campaign for the Lingayat faith to be accorded separate religion status.
“The forum has been created after our attempts to make peace with the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha failed,” said Jamdaar. The All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha was created in 1914 and has members belonging to Lingayat community enrolled with them.
The creation of the new forum marks the official split of Lingayats from Veerashaivas in their quest for a separate religion tag. Negotiations between Lingayat and Veerashaiva groups over presenting a joint proposal for separate religion status had reached a dead end.
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 Lingayat-Veerashaiva was the same and there were no differences between them, the Lingayat camp argued that Lingayats and Veerashaivas 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 their push for a separate religion status and are hopeful that the expert committee constituted by the State Minorities Commission will accept their proposal. “We regret to do this but we have no choice because we have been demanding for 8 months now and we have seen that the process is being delayed,” said Jamdaar.
Despite the movement’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.
BJP leaders, meanwhile, are opposed to the movement and consider Lingayats to be part of 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 Siddaramaiah’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 with the state Assembly Elections set for May.
An expert committee is now reviewing the claims for a separate religion tag. The committee’s recommendations will then be studied by the state government before a decision is taken on the claims for a separate religion tag.