Karnataka government on 19th March 2018, Monday recognized Lingayats as a separate religious minority and accepted the recommendation of a committee under the state Minorities Commission Act. The proposal will be sent to Centre for final approval. Let’s look in deep and try to understand can Lingayat as a new religion lead Congress to a victory or what is the motive of Congress?
Who was Lingayats By-the-way?
Lingayatism is a Shaivite religious tradition in India. Initially these were known as Veerashaivas, however, since the 18th century, adherents of this faith are known as Lingayats.
Lingayatism was founded, or revived, by the 12th-century philosopher and statesman Basavanna in Karnataka. Lingayat scholars thrived during 14th and 18th Century in northern Karnataka during Vijayanagara Empire, but the followers of Lingayatism were persecuted by Tipu Sultan during the Islamic rule over the Kingdom of Mysore (18th century). In the 21st century, some Lingayats have sought legal recognition as a religion, distinct from Hinduism and Veerashaivas.
Lingayatism is often considered a Hindu sect, sharing beliefs with Indian religions, but it rejects the authority of the Vedas, the caste system, and Hindu beliefs such as reincarnation and karma. Worship is centered on Shiva as the universal god in the iconographic form of Ishtalinga.
Veerashaivas call themselves Hindus, whereas Lingayats have denounced all Hindu practices and can’t fit themselves into the Hindu religion. In Veerashaivism, men are given more prominence than women, whereas women are regarded equally potential and powerful by Lingayats.
Lingayat as a new religion: An introspection into retrospective demands.
According to official surveys of the years up to 1930, “Lingayats were identified as ‘Lingayats’, with Veerashaivas as being part of Lingayats” Subsequently the community began to be identified as “Veerashaiva Lingayats” as said by S M Jamdar, a retired bureaucrat from Karnataka. He has been one of among the strongest advocates in favour of Lingayats being classified as a separate religion.
Last year Jamdar also said that “the decision was taken in a meeting of community leaders ‘in 1941’ to identify the mahasabha of the community as the ‘All India Lingayat Mahasabha’, and declare Lingayats as a separate religion, but this decision was not been implemented, and the mahasabha continues to be known as the ‘All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha’. Lingayats wanted the decision to be taken and implemented thoroughly,70 years ago”.
After his statement, the movement gathered momentum to claim a status of a religion and religious minority for Lingayats.
However, a proposal was sent to 2013 UPA Gov by the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha to grant religious minority status to Lingayat and Veerashaiva Lingayats. But the proposal was turned down by UPA Govt on the grounds that they were a sect of Hindus and not an independent religion and if sects start being treated as a separate religion from Hindus, all SCs of the sect would lose their constitutional status.
Lingayat- Home run: Congress stance and strategy for polls ahead –
After observing a four-hour session, Law Minister TB Jayachandra announced to media that the state government has decided to grant religious minority tag for Lingayats as per recommendations of a committee led by Justice (retd), Nagamohan Das. He even further said that those Veerashaivas who follow Basavanna’s ideas could be given religious minority status under Section 2(d) of Karnataka Minorities Act.
Jayachandra recommended that Lingayats could be given the status of a separate linguistic minority as well under Section 2C of the National Commission for Minorities (Amendment) Act, 1995. Till now under the National Commission for Minorities Act, 1992. Five religious communities, viz; Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians (Parsis) have been notified as minority communities by the Union Government.
However, the Congress government conducted a controversial census two years ago, which was expected to be released at the hight time of state elections, the census depicted Lingayat population to be below 10 percent which aimed to add further momentum to the approval for Minority tag to be granted to Lingayats.
Karnataka flag: Is it Kannada’s pride or silent yet political strategy of INC??
Karnataka government, on Thursday, took a historic decision to have Separate State flag of Karnataka. The decision was taken at a meeting convened by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to discuss the recommendations of the nine-member flag committee. The committee had recommended yellow, red and white with the State emblem in the middle. The meeting was attended by representatives of Kannada organisations, littérateurs, and official representatives.
As opposed to BJPs aim to create a bigger nationalistic narrative and revealing an extreme right side of it as a threat to Regional Independence and Power, Congress intended such move in order to revive Regional sentiments by providing a promise of an autonomous state under Article 370 and putting it under its master tactics against its biggest competitor.
The roots of Movement for Regional Autonomy in South can be traced back in the 1940s to 1960s when Dravidistan Movement was in its full swing fuelled by regional parties including DMK along with the demand of sovereign state with separate Flag which gave Congress tough time in its regime.
How Lingayat Strategy will prove being as Congress’s RPG breaking BJP’s vote bank??
For many years now, the Lingayats have backed BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat himself, state’s first BJP chief minister, and is now the party president while Karnataka gears up for polls in May and have been demanding the status of a separate religion. In the political sphere, this demand was led by Congress ministers MB Patil, Basavaraj Rayareddy and Vinay Kulkarni, while their cabinet colleagues Eshwar Khandre and SS Mallikarjun opposed it.By pushing for Lingayats’ minority Tag Congress seems to appease the community in order to divert its votes, the move which bears much similarity with introduction of Muslim Women Act 1986 in Shah Bano’s Case to nullify SC’s judgement on it.,which too intended to appease minorities, thus not a new but tried and tested move which became successful at that time.
However a similar move Congress tried to have a ball in its court during Gujarat Elections 2018 by seconding Patel Community’s Patidar Reservation Demand-led by Hardik Patel in order to appease the minorities in order to divide the votes of the rival party which however didn’t work well.
Lingayats are an influential community whose support could make or break a party. In past Assembly polls, whenever Lingayats, choose a political party, that party normally rides to power.
Will Lingayat as a new religion lead Congress to a victory in Karnataka?
It is also obvious that Siddaramaiah and Congress are seeking the upper hand in upcoming Karnataka’s polls by reversing its 2013s refusal to further gain returns which will help Congress in retaining its power by winning polls.
Veerashaivas do not usually follow Basavanna’s ideals and the influential community heads had requested Siddaramaiah not to “break up the community for votes”. After the Karnataka government accorded minority religion tag to the dominant community Lingayats, Kodavas, a martial race from the coffee growing district of Kodagu has demanded that they should too be declared as a religious minority. Hence the move may motivate or instigate other communities to demand minority tag from the Governments.
Harish Ramaswamy, political analyst and professor at Karnataka University(KU)-Dharwad, believes in the fact that Congress took a hasty decision by granting Lingayats Minority status to appease the community to add it into its vote bank and not looking upon to and fro of community’s ideas and beliefs which might stay intact in spite of the Congress’ move.
Along with Mr. Ramaswamy, many experts too believe that the move will not be recognized. Congress is driving the society by such moves for its own agenda. BJP has already announced BS Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat leader, as its chief ministerial candidate. So, why would the community’s vote go to others? And BJP state vice-president M Nagaraj also said that the BJP will not lose because of this,”
Because, For many years now, the Lingayats have backed BJP’s BS Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat himself, who was the state’s first BJP chief minister, and is now the party president while Karnataka gears up for polls in May.
Even Congress’s Gujarat election strategy of seconding Patels and their demands turned into abrupt failure due to lack of homogeneity in Patel votes and competition between the two big sub-groups, Leuvas and Kadvas of Patels in all spheres, including politics. Figuratively, lack of homogeneous votes may cost a big loss.
And further Lingayats currently have 5% reservation and are classified as an Other Backward Class. A former chairman of the state Backward Classes Commission said that is unlikely to change. A member of the experts’ committee that recommended the religious minority status also says on the condition of anonymity that Lingayat sub-castes already benefits from reservations. Hence this is only a recognition of the sect, in fact, not a part of Hindu religion.