A day after it welcomed Karnataka cabinet's decision to recommend separate religious status to Lingayats and followers of Basavanna's ideologies, the Veerashaiva Mahasabha has made a turnabout. President of the Mahasabha and Congress leader Dr Shamanur Shivashankarappa on Tuesday opposed the decision taken by Siddaramaiah's cabinet.
Addressing the press in Davangere Dr Shivashankarappa, who had welcomed the move on Monday, clarified that he had made statements in a hurry without going through the cabinet's decision and Justice Nagamohandas committee report. "I went through the cabinet decision in detail today. The report claims that Veerashaiva religion wasn't present in the 12th century. Veerashaivism is an ancient religion. This is the epitome of injustice to us. We do not accept the cabinet's decision," said Shivashankarappa.
The Veerashaiva Mahasabha, an organisation that deems itself the representative of Veerashaiva-Lingayats, has called for a meeting in Bengaluru on March 23, Friday to discuss the next course of action. "Veerashaiva and Lingayat are two faces of the same coin and dividing them is unacceptable. The report is one-sided and unjust to us," said Veerasomeshwara seer of the Rambhapuri mutt- a Veerashaiva mutt.
The change of stance from the Mahasabha comes a day after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) state President B S Yeddyurappa issued a statement on the row. "The BJP, as stated earlier, will stand by any decision taken by the Veerashaiva Mahasabha in this regard. I urge the Mahasabha to hold a discussion and arrive at a decision," B S Yeddyurappa had stated.
THe Mahasabha has taken offence to Siddaramaiah's cabinet decision to accord separate religious identity status to Lingayats and only those Veerashaivas who follow Basavatatva (ideologies of Basavanna- a 12th-century social reformer). "All of us follow Basavanna and his teaching. Basavanna himself said that Veerashaivas and Lingayats are the same," Shivashankarappa added.
The Mahasabha will decide on the next course of action but the Lingayat forum that led the agitation demanding separate religious tag will continue to push its demands. "The Karnataka cabinet's decision will benefit community members greatly in terms of jobs but education mostly. Veerashaivas are dividing the society and not us. There isn't even a mention of Veerashaiva in any documentation of Lingayat history and the claims being made are frivolous," said S M Jamdar, convenor of the Lingayat forum and former IAS officer.
Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah, much like in the case of Karnataka state flag issue, has made his move and has left the matter to the Union government. While no changes are expected to take place before Karnataka Assembly Elections 2018, the Karnataka cabinet's decision is expected to win favour from at least a small chunk of Lingayats especially in the North Karnataka belt.