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Centre throws caste benefits spanner into Lingayat religion debate

Author: PTI
Publication: The Week
Date: March 20, 2018
URL:      https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2018/03/20/centre-caste-benefits-lingayat-yeddyurappa-siddaramaiah.html

Accusing the Siddaramaiah-led Karnataka government of playing politics in the name of religion, a Union minister said on Tuesday that the scheduled castes of Veerashaiva/Lingayat sects would lose reservation benefits if the demand for a separate religion tag was accepted by the Centre.

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.

On Monday, the Karnataka government accepted a proposal to grant 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," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal told reporters in New Delhi.

Quoting the November 14, 2013, letter to the Karnataka government, he said the Registrar General of India had said, "Veerashaiva-Lingayat is a sect of Hindu and not an independent religion."

"The demand made by All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha is apparently not logical and correct. Therefore, no separate code/column was proposed to be assigned for persons returning their religion as Veerashaiva-Lingayat during the Census of India, 2011," the letter said.

The Registrar General had also said, "If Veerashaiva-Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code/column than Hindu, all SCs professing the Veerashaiva-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's decision on this issue is very clear and there won't be any change in that, he added.

Union Minister of State for Drinking Water and Sanitation Ramesh Chandappa Jigajinagi was also present at the press conference.

Speaking separately, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said, "SCs following Veerashaiva-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.

Meanwhile, a Union home ministry official on Tuesday said the ministry would examine in detail the Karnataka government's recommendation to grant religious minority tag to the Lingayat and Veerashaiva community as and when it receives the proposal.

The home ministry is expected to forward the proposal to the Registrar General and Census Commissioner for a detailed examination and suggestions, another official said.

The Karnataka government took the decision following a recommendation of an expert panel set up by it on the issue.

According to the expert panel, Lingayats and Veerashaiva Lingayats are those who believe in the philosophy of Basaveshwara, a 12th century social reformer.

The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the community, amid resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.
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