Okay‘taka govt nod to spiritual standing for Lingayats

BENGALURU: The Karnataka cabinet on Monday accepted an expert panel report favouring separate religious minority status for and Veershaivas, who believe in 12th century social reformer Basavanna‘s philosophy.
After an elaborate discussion, the cabinet approved minority status for Lingayats based on the suggestions of the seven-member committee headed by retired high court judge Nagamohan Das.

The cabinet also decided to forward it‘s recommendation to the Centre.

On Saturday, a group of Lingayat seers met chief minister , urging him not to implement the report of an official committee that recommended conferring a separate religious minority status to only Lingayats but to Veershaiva-Lingayats.

On Sunday, the seers, led by Gadag-based Tontadarya Mutt‘sBENGALURU: After dilly-dallying for nearly two weeks, the Congress government in Karnataka finally managed to do a balancing act by accepting an expert panel report favouring separate religious minority status for Lingayats after including Veerashaivas as a group within the community.

It also decided to recommend to the Centre to grant the minority religious status to the after ratifying an official notification to this affect at the next cabinet meeting, possibly to be held next week.

“After due deliberations and some discussion on concerns of various sections of society, the cabinet has decided to accept the recommendations of the state minority commission based on the report of an expert committee headed by Justice Nagamohan Das that has recommended to consider grant of recognition as religious minority to the Lingayat and Veerashaiva-Lingayat, believers of Basava Tattva (philosophy), under Section 2(d) of the Karnataka Minorities Act. It was also decided to forward the same to the Central government for notifying under Section 2(d) of the Central Minority Commission Act,” law minister TB Jayachandra said quoting the cabinet decision on Monday.

The move is expected to have a huge bearing on the upcoming assembly polls, as some political analysts believe that it may make or mar the electoral prospects of the ruling Congress considering that the community can influence poll outcome in nearly 100 seats in the 224-member legislative assembly.

The decision also came amid threats from Veerashaiva seers led by Panchacharyas (five powerful pontiffs) against recommending the minority status for Lingayats alone. Some had even threatened to campaign against Congress in the upcoming assembly polls.

To overcome the threat, the cabinet decided to include Veerashaivas as a group within the Lingayat community.

“The cabinet decided to grant minority status to Veerashaivas, who consider Basavanna dharma guru (religious head), believe in vachanas (verses) as sacred text and wear Ishta Linga (symbolic representation of a formless god) will also be considered as Lingayats,” Jayachandra said, while quoting the expert panel’s recommendations.

How the community will benefit?

As of now, there won’t be any changes in the reservation since the government has left it to the centre to decide on that provide it accepts the state’s recommendations, Jayachandra said. Sources said the lingayats will continue to enjoy 15% reservation under 2A and 3B benefits.

As a minority religion, the Lingayats will however be able to avail the benefits under Section 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion, 28 (Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions), 29 (Protection of interests of minorities) and 30 (Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions) of the Constitution, according to community leaders.

A state cabinet meeting was scheduled to take up the recommendation for minority status for Lingayats on March 14, but it was cancelled after differences cropped up between ministers from the Lingayat and Veerashaiva factions. While a group of Lingayat ministers in the Congress government has been at the forefront of the movement to seek a separate religion tag, another group from the Veerashaiva faction has been opposing it on the grounds that it should be granted to Veerashaiva-Lingayats and not Lingayats alone.

“The congress has done a balancing act to keep all groups happy. I am sure this won’t create any kind of rift within the Veershaiva-Lingayat community,” said a senior Lingayat minister, who did not want to be quoted.
Siddalinga Swami, had also requested to recognise the Lingayats as a religious minority and grant minority status only for Lingayats.
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