The Karnataka government has issued a notification recognising Lingayats and Veerashaivas who practice Basavatatva (teachings of Basavanna) as religious minorities. There is, however, little to cheer for the community immediately since the notification will come into effect only if and after the Union government approves and notifies it.
The carefully worded notification puts the onus of identifying Lingayats and a select group of Veerashaivas as a religious minority completely on the Union government. The Siddarramaiah government's order has effectively pushed the Lingayat religious row onto the union government ahead of Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018.
"From the date the Union government recognises and notifies Lingayats and Veerashaivas who follow Basavatatva as religious minorities under National Minorities Commission Act, 1992, Act 19 and section 2(C), the state government notifies to extend benefits and reservation to Lingayats and Veerashaivas who follow Basavatatva without disturbing the reservation and interests of existing minority groups," said a notification dated 22, March 2018.
Veerashaiva Mahasabha opposes Siddaramaiah's decision
While the proposal to recognise Lingayats and Veerashaivas who follow Basavatatva was adopted by the Karnataka cabinet earlier this week, the Veerashaiva Mahasabha has opposed the government's decision. The Mahasabha has called the Karnataka government's decision an attempt to divide the community. "It is clear what the Siddaramaiah government's intentions are attempting to divide the Veerashaiva-Lingayat society ahead of assembly elections. The community will think twice before casting its vote," said N Thippanna, Senior Vice President, Veerashaiva Mahasabha.
The Siddaramaiah government has been careful not to anger its core vote bank of AHINDA (an acronym for Minorities, Backward classes and Dalits) with a clause of not adversely affecting reservation, benefits and interests of existing minority groups while including Lingayats under the banner. The notification makes it clear that the benefits will be rolled out from the date the Union government approves identity of Lingayats and Veerashaivas who follow Basavatatva as religious minorities, effectively building pressure on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at state and national level.