Karnataka’s Panchamasali Lingayats seek job, education quota

Members of the Panchamasali sect of Karnataka’s powerful Lingayat community held a massive rally in the city’s Palace grounds on Sunday to seek inclusion in the 2A reservation category for government jobs and seats in state-run educational institutes.

“If the state government does not include our community in the 2A reservation category for government jobs and educational seats, we will intensify our agitation and lay siege to the state Secretariat,” Panchamasali seer Basava Jaya Mruthyunjaya Swami warned.

Over a lakh of the politically-dominant community’s members reached the city since Saturday from Kudalasangama in the state’s Bagalkot district after a 37-day march (padayatra) in support of their demand.

“We took police permission to stage the march from Kudalasangama and other 17 districts to hold the rally peacefully for ensuring social justice to us, as we have been neglected over the last 70 years,” Lingayat Panchamasali Mahasabha president Vijayanand Kashappanavar told reporters here.

Besides scores of the sect’s pontiffs, community leaders, legislators from the ruling BJP, including minister Murgesh Nirani, and opposition Congress and JD-S participated in the rally and addressed the gathering.

In his speech, Nirani said Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa was committed to ensure reservation to the Lingayat sect and efforts would be made to amend the law soon to include the community in the 2A category.

State Information Minister C.C Patil, senior rebel BJP leader Basangouda Yatnal and Congress legislator Lakshmi Hebbalkar and others spoke at the rally and urged the state government to include the sect in the 2A category.

Another seer Vacahnanda Swami, who marched to the city along with hundreds of the community from Basavakalyan in Bidar district, said though the previous BJP government in the state had set up a sub-committee for drafting the law during its 2008-13 tenure, they have not been given reservation as members of other communities.

“When Jagadish Shettar was the BJP’s third Chief Minister after Yediyurappa and D.V. Sadananda Gowda, a legislative panel was set up in 2012 to study our demand. The panel report said Panchamasalis should be included in 2A,” he said.

Of the 108 sub-sects in the Lingayat community, 34 are in the 2A category, while about 70 are in the OBC (Other Backward Classes) category.

Earlier this month, Yediyurappa told reporters that he would do his best to provide reservation to the communities, including Panchamsalis and Kurbas.

“I will not ask the pontiffs leading the agitations to stop their fight, but give me some time. I will work hard to meet their demand,” he said.