Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka must recommend Lingayat for the status of a separate religion by 30 December, demanded influential community leaders on Sunday. Talking at the Lingayat Conclave at Bengaluru’s National College Grounds, influential pontiff of the Basava Dharma Peetha, Mathe Madadevi, said that the government’s failure to do so will be countered with agitations.
While announcing the community’s demand for religious status, Madadevi said that apart from the status of a religion separate from Hinduism, Karnataka government should also demand a religious minority status for the Lingayat community.
She added that if their demands were not met, they would start agitations. “Our protest won’t be violent like Jat or Rajputs, but we will come on streets in numbers,” she said.
Talking on behalf of the community, Mathe Mahadevi put forth five demands to the government. Apart from setting the 30 December deadline for Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the conclave insisted on getting a religious minority status.
Elections are due next year and once the model code of conduct comes into force it will not be possible for the government to do so. Hence, I call on the chief minister to make the recommendation by 30 December.Mathe Mahadevi, Lingayat leader
The conclave demanded that Karnataka’s 12th century social reformer Basavanna should be recognised as the ‘cultural leader’ of Karnataka. Mahadevi said that without Basavanna’s vachanas, Karnataka’s literature would be poorer. “Basavanna in a way taught the God Kannada. Until Basavanna, God only knew Sanskrit because prayers were in Sanskrit. It was Basavanna who asked people to pray to God in people’s language — Kannada,” she said.
She also asked the government to issue caste certificates to Lingayats. She demanded that the government should separate the Veerashaivas and Lingayat communities. As their final demand, Mahadevi asked for the Kalburgi University to be renamed after Basavanna.
“We Are Not Hindus”
Mahadevi said it was wrong to classify Basavanna as a Hindu reformer as he had rejected its very basis, the varnashrama dharma. "However, Veerashaivas follow the agama shastras, vedas and upanishads, so they are not a part of the Lingayat sect. In fact, they were brahmins from Andhra Pradesh," she said.
Minster BR Patil, questioned BJP’s criticism against giving Lingayat community a minority religion status: "The Jains were recognised as a minority religion in in 2014. I want to ask Amit Shah whether the Hindu religion was broken, when Jains and Sikhs became independent religions? Why are these allegations made only when Lingayats have raised this demand?"
SM Jamdar, a retired IAS officer, who is at the forefront of the agitation, said he had documents that showed that a conspiracy had been hatched to include Lingayats in Hindu religion.
"In the Census of 1871, Lingayats were classified as a separate religious group. But this changed in the 1981 Census, thanks to the conspiracy of the then Diwan of Mysore," Jamdar said. "The British even had a Lingayat regiment," he added.
Jamdar said the Lingayat religion was born out of a revolution against Vedic society. "The basic tenets of Hindu religion were rejected. We are not asking for a new religion to be formed, but that an existing religion be recognised officially as being separate from Hinduism," he said.
Home Minister’s Presence Raises Eyebrows
Even though the BJP has alleged that the Congress party is behind the Lingayats’ demand, the state government has taken a neutral stand on the issue. So far, only Lingayat ministers were part of the rallies.
While the Lingayat ministers MB Patil and Vinay Kulkarni attended the function, the presence of Karnataka Home Minister Ramalinga Reddy – who is not a Lingayat leader and holds the second highest position in the cabinet – was a topic of discussion among the participants.
Lingayat leaders from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra also joined their Karnataka counterparts at the conclave.
Massive Rally Soon
The demand for recognising Lingayats as a separate religion gained traction after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced that he would request for a separate status if there was consensus within the community.
BR Patil’s campaign to reach a consensus among Lingayat leaders is yet to bear fruits. During the conclave, Patil said that a massive rally to mobilise the Lingayat community will be taken out soon. The dates of the rally, however, were not announced during the conclave.