Bengaluru, March 23 (IANS) The Karnataka government on Friday notified minority religion status to Lingayats amid protests by some sections of the community.
“The state Social Welfare Department has issued a notification terming Lingayat followers of 12th century social reformer Basava’s philosophy (tatva) as a religious minority,” an official told IANS here.
The notification comes three days after the state cabinet decided to grant the status to Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats who are believers of Basava ideology.
Lingayats, who worship Hindu god Shiva as their deity, and Veerashaiva Lingayats constitute the largest community (17 per cent) in the southern state.
The notification, however, omitted ‘Veerashaiva’ word to Lingayats as then UPA government had in 2013 rejected the state government’s proposal to grant religious minority status to them (Veerashaivas) as they are considered to be Shaivaites and hence cannot get a separate religious tag.
Earlier in the day, the Akhila Bharatha Veerashaiva Mahasabha urged the state government not to grant minority religion status to the community and withdraw the cabinet decision.
“Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats are one and the same. They cannot be treated separately from followers of Basava as Panchacharyas founded the Veerashaiva, which is an ancient religion,” Mahasabha President and state Horticulture Minister Shamanur Shivashankarappa told reporters here.
The Mahasabha urged the state government not to divide the community.
“The state government should go back and revisit the report that was submitted to the UPA government on the issue after which the decision to grant the religious minority status to Veerashaiva Lingayats and Lingayats was earlier stopped,” added Shivashankarappa.
BJP’s state unit president and former Chief Minister B.S. Yeddurappa termed the government move as an election gimmick and accused the ruling Congress of dividing the people on religious and caste basis.
“The Congress government is dividing society on emotional issues. There is only one Lingayat-Veerashaiva. The separate religion tag to Lingayats is an election gimmick. It is an attempt to mislead the people,” Yeddyurappa said earlier.