Days after the Karnataka cabinet decided to recommend separate religious status to Lingayat community, the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha on Friday condemned the move. In a meeting of executive members including President of Mahasabha and Congress leader Shamanur Shivashankarappa, the Mahasabha accused the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government of mischief and creating division for electoral gains ahead of Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018.
"The decision taken by the Karnataka government is not right and we condemn it. Veerashaiva and Veerashaiva-Lingayat is the same. We demand that the government drop the words "Basavatatva followers from its recommendation and push for a separate religious minority status for Veerashaiva-Lingayat as a whole," said Shamanur Shivashankarappa, President, All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha.
The Mahasabha argued that contrary to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah's claims, their 2013 memorandum to the union government, demanding religious minority status to Veerashaiva-Lingayats, was still under consideration. "The memorandum that we submitted in 2013 was presented before the cabinet committee but before it could be taken up again, the government changed. We will push the government to consider the same memorandum," said N Thippanna, Senior Vice President of the Mahasabha.
Hours after the Mahasabha declared its resolution, the Karnataka government issued a notification recognising Lingayats and Veerashaivas following Basavatatva as a religious minority subject to Union government's approval. The state government will now dole out reservations and benefits to the community from the date the Union government notifies it as a religious minority.
The Mahasabha is opposed to the same and wants the clause of "Basavatatva followers" to be dropped from the recommendation but insist on religious minority status. "We all believe in Basaveshwara but Veerashaivas and Lingayats are one and the same. Why isn't the government acknowledging that? We are Hindus too,' Thippanna added.
The Mahasabha accused Siddaramaiah of indulging in divisive politics ahead of the assembly elections in Karnataka. "This government is responsible for all the mischief. Do not create a difference between community and persons. It is what the government wants but does not take us for fools. If the Congress government thinks it will get votes for this, the community will think twice before casting votes," N Thippanna said.