The Scheduled Castes of the Veerashaiva/Lingayat sects could lose reservation benefits if the demand for a separate religion tag was accepted by the Centre, Union Minister, Arjun Ram Meghwal said.
This was the main reason cited by the then UPA government in 2013 while denying a separate religion status to Veerashaiva/Lingayat sect, the minister said, adding that the Congress party was overturning its own decision for "political gains" ahead of assembly polls in Karnataka. Yesterday, the Karnataka government accepted a proposal to grant a separate religion status to the Lingayat community.
"In November 2013, the then Manmohan Singh government had decided that giving separate religion tag will split the society further and affect SCs professing Veerashaiva/Lingayat Dharma," the minister said.
Quoting the November 14, 2013, letter to the Karnataka government, he said the Registrar General of India had said, "Veerashiva-Lingayat is a sect of Hindu and not an independent religion."
"The demand made by All India Veershiva Mahasabha is apparently not logical and correct. Therefore, no separate code/column was proposed to be assigned to persons returning their religion as Veerashiva-Lingayat during the Census of India, 2011," the letter said. The Registrar General had also said, "If Veerashiva-Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code/column than Hindu, all SCs professing the Veerashiva-Lingayat sect will lose their Constitutional status, since SC can be only from Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh along with their sects."
The minister alleged that "the Karnataka government is playing politics. The only reasons they are pushing for separate religion status is to stop Lingayat BJP leader B S Yeddyurappa from becoming chief minister."
The central government decision on this issue is very clear and there won't be any change in that, he added.
Union Minister of State of Drinking Water and Sanitation Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi was also present at a press conference.
Speaking separately, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, "SCs following Veerashiva-Lingayat dharma will lose their rights if a separate religion status is given.
"The Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka is adopting Britisher Robert Clive's divide and rule strategy ahead of assembly polls. The Congress is doing vote-bank politics. This will not benefit them. It will boomerang," he added.