Political slugfest is on for some time on the issue of granting separate status for 'Lingayat' religion. The Lingayat community is spearheading a movement for separate religious status distinct from 'Veerashaiva' and Hindu religion as well.
Meanwhile, Karnataka Chief Minister, Sri. Siddaramaiah has asked both Veerashaivas and Lingayats to come together with a request for separate religious status during a felicitation organized by Akhil Bharath Veerashaiva Mahasabha. On the other hand, BJP's national president Amit Shah said the demand for separate religious status for the dominant 'Lingayat' community in Karnataka is a political game being played by CM Siddaramaiah.
At the outset, we need to be clear about the distinction between "Veerashaiva" and 'Lingayat' communities and their demands. Veerashaiva Mahasabha considers Lingayat as part of Veerashaiva Sect. Now, the organization claims separate status for Veerashaiva- Lingayat together.
But, Lingayat swamijis do not consider themselves as part of either Veerashaiva or Hinduism.OneIndia spoke to Arali Nagaraj, former Judge of Karnataka High Court about his view on the ongoing debate.
Arali said: "All Lingayats were under the impression that they were Veerashaivas, but Lingayats belong to Basava tradition founded by 12th-century reformer Basavanna." He supports his arguments by drawing a parallel between Brahminical (Vedic) practices and Veerashaivas. Brahmins do Upanayana likewise Veerashaivas perform 'Ayyachara' ( a ritual) to only 'Jangam' caste, not to any other caste in the sect. Also, Veerashaivism does not give equal status to women. Like Brahmins, Veerashaivas consider 'jaati Jangamas' (priestly caste of Veerashaiva) superior to other castes.
He questioned, "Which Veerashaiva (Panchacharya) peetha has worked towards preserving vachanas and propagated them?."He gave the credit to FG Halakatti who has been praised as "Vachana Pithamaha" and Hardekar Manjappa (Gandhi of Karnataka) who started celebration of "Basava Jayanthi" a century ago and also Dr. M M Kalburgi who have contributed immensely to preserve Vachana literature.
He took pride in saying that 'Lingayat' is the only religion to give equal status to women, therefore, 35 women (Sharanis) from 12th century could write Vachanas.
On the question of Veerashaivas' attempt in claiming separate religious status, Justice Arali asked: "How could they claim separate status while maintaining that Veerashaivas form a sect of Hindusim?"
"Veerashaivas believe in Vedas, Shivagamas, Siddhanth Shikamani(the holy book of Veerashaiva) and also Vachanas of Sharanas. However, 30-35 shlokas of Siddhanth Shikamani are contrary to the principles accepted, practiced and preached by Sharanas," he said.
"Apart from theological differences evidence has to be adduced by Lingayats to claim a separate status". Justice Nagaraj interprets the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and other Hindu Laws Acts to prove their claim. Section 2(1) of the Act mentions Veerashaivas and Lingayats as two different forms to which Hindu Law applies.
Section 2(1) in the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 provides that-
(1) This Act applies
a. to any person who is a Hindu by religion in any of its forms or developments, including a Veershaiva, a Lingayat or a follower of the Brahmo, Prarthana or Arya Samaj,
b. to any person who is a Buddhist, Jaina or Sikh by religion, and.....
However, such distinction is not made in Article 25 of the Constitution of India, therefore, I feel, constitution needs to be amended in this regards added Justice Nagaraj. Also, referring to (AIR 1966. SC 1190:1966-1 SCR 134 dated 14/1/1966) delivered by Justice Gajendragadkar in which the judge has said; "Buddha started Buddhism, Mahaveera founded Jainism, Basava became the founder of Lingayat religion....." (in paragraph 264).
Buddha, Mahaveera were Hindus. But, they did not accept social practice in Hindu Religion thereby started their own path.
Thirdly, Lingayat should convince the Parliament of India about the threat of extinction and the numerical inferiority of the community, if Lingayat religion is not recognized as a separate and distinct religion. As far as the role of the state government is concerned in giving minority status to Lingayats, Justice said: "State Government can exercise its power to some extent, at best it can recommend to the Centre. In this regard, the President of India should issue notification after consulting the state government and we have to approach the Central Government only."
But, is this separate status tag to get benefit from the government? He did not deny that fact. But categorically said: "to get the benefit from the government is not the sole objective to claim separate religious status. But, it is true that economically weaker sections of the community can get benefits from the government."
He refuted the arguments the separate religion for Lingayats leads to further division of Hindu religion. "I don't think Hindu Society will be divided. It's a ploy privileged men to preserve their superiority over others."
In reply, he asked" "What happened when Basava came out of Hindu religion in 12th century?"