In a significant move, the Congress government in poll-bound Karnataka on Monday decided to recommend to the Centre to grant religious minority tag to the numerically strong Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayat community.
Briefing reporters after a Cabinet meeting, Law Minister T.B. Jayachandra said it had accepted the recommendations of an expert panel set up by the State government on the issue.
“The decision has been taken after deep deliberations and discussion...,” he said.
According to the expert panel, Lingayats and Veerashaivas are those who believe in the philosophy of Basaveshwara, 12th century social reformer, he said.
Mr. Jayachandra said the decision would not affect the rights and interests enjoyed by the existing minorities.
The demand for a separate religion tag to Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the community, amidst resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.
While one section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other group wanted it only for Lingayats.
They believe that Veerashaivas are one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.
Of late, some Lingayats have also stated that they were open to having the Veerashaivas under their umbrella, but the Lingayat nomenclature was non-negotiable.
Karnataka State Minorities Commission had formed a seven-member committee, headed by retired high court Judge H.N. Nagamohan Das, on the issue which submitted its report on March 2.
The Lingayat community that owes allegiance to the “social reform movement” initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the State.
The BJP and several sections of the Hindu community have maintained a cautious stance keeping away from the move to give Lingayat separate religion status.
They have accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of Assembly elections due in the next couple of months.