Lingayats Demand a New Religion, But Do Enough of Them Agree?

Unless all leaders are taken in to confidence the proposal for new religion can’t be moved to the central government

2 min read
Unless all leaders are taken into confidence, the proposal for the new religion can’t be moved to the central government

In what is being billed as the first step towards creating a new religion, over 30 leaders of the Lingayat community submitted a memorandum to the Karnataka government on Thursday. After endorsing the demand for a separate Lingayat religion, the community’s leaders urged the state government to push the proposal to the Centre.

The memorandum is perceived to be a big step as Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had put the onus on the community to come up with a consensus on the requirement for creating a new religion. However, the absence of several Lingayat leaders in the decision-making has raised questions over the memorandum’s eventual success.

The conclave on Thursday was organised by Karnataka Water Resources Minister MB Patil. Following the meeting, a delegation of seers met Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and handed over their demand.

Those who had gathered at the ‘Lingayat conclave’ in Bengaluru believe the decision made at the conclave is enough to set the ball rolling.

However, the absence of representatives from three prominent mutts – Siddaganga, Suttur and Sirigere – was conspicuous during the conclave. These prominent mutts have been the faces of the Lingayat community in the state. Not only did they give this conclave a miss, but they have remained silent on the issue since its inception.

With a number of senior Lingayat leaders failing to show up for the conclave, many are left wondering if the memorandum is indeed a unanimous decision by the community.

Although a host of Lingayat ministers were present at the conclave, several prominent names like Ministers HK Patil, Eshwar Khandre and SS Mallikarjun, who are projected as Lingayat faces in the Congress party, stayed away from the meeting.

Lingayats were a community that rebelled from the Veerashaiva community in the 6th century. They were against the caste system and the Vedas. However, over the years, both communities merged and became the Lingayat community. The proposal for a new religion will divide the community into Lingayat and Veerashaivas again.

The creation of the new Lingayat religion is perceived to be a political strategy by the Congress government to split the Lingayat vote bank, which had traditionally voted for the BJP. To counter this, the BJP has come up with the proposal to give Lingayats OBC status, instead of a new religion.

Back at the Lingayat conclave, organisers are confident that they will be able to convince those who were not part of the memorandum to lend their support. And if they do manage to do so, the proposal for a new religion may be put forth to the Centre just ahead of the 2018 state Assembly Elections.

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