Clashes have broken out between Lingayat followers and Veerashaiva followers at Kalaburagi in Karnataka on Monday. The clashes broke out when Lingayat followers had come to celebrate state cabinet's approval for the recommendation of separate religion for Lingayat community. Soon, Veerashaiva followers had come to protest against Lingayat’s.
The immediate caste war was followed by the Karnataka Cabinet’s decision on Monday to recommend to the Centre to declare Lingayats who follow the philosophy of social reformer Basaveshwara as a religious minority. Now the Centre has to take a final decision on the issue.
There was an allegation that the new move by Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah was to divide the large Veerashaiva-Lingayat vote bank which traditionally favours the BJP. Together this community constitutes 17 per cent of the Karnataka State. But with the new move of separating Lingayat from Veerashaiva by giving some appeasement is widely criticized. The move is said to be an attempt to woo voters from the dominant Lingayat community.
"Decision of the State cabinet to recommend to the Indian govt to treat Lingayat as a separate religion is a purely politically motivated decision. I strongly oppose this", says Chandrashekhar Hiremath, Veerashaiva Lingayat Samanvaya Samiti President.
Last week, a group of Veerashaiva seers met chief minister Siddaramaiah and expressed resentment over the government's proposed move to recommend separation of Lingayats from the Hindu category of Veerashaiva Lingayats. They had threatened to launch an indefinite agitation if the government fails to adhere to their request. In a memorandum, they said, "If the state government intends to ensure the welfare of the community, it should then declare the Veerashaiva Lingayats as a religion".
Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs T B Jayachandra said that the Karnataka Cabinet’s decision is based on the recommendations made by the Karnataka State Minorities Commission. Minorities Commission has made its recommendations based on the report by a seven-member panel headed by Justice Nagamohan Das. The Justice Nagamohan Das panel was constituted by the Karnataka State Minorities Commission to study the Lingayats' demand for a separate religion tag. As the Nagamohan Das panel gave a green signal, the minorities' commission had asked the Congress government to recommend to the Centre that they accord minority status to the community. A seven-member Nagamohan Das Committee suggested, "Lingayats in Karnataka may be considered as a religious minority".
While Lingayat leaders claimed that the LIngayats are a distinct Shaivite religious tradition and the followers of the 12th-century poet-social reformer Basaveshwara who rebelled against the established Hindu tradition by defying the caste system and Vedic rituals. And they argued that Lingayat Community is distanced itself from Hindu Veerashaivas because the latter followed the Vedas and supported the caste system.