Centre Denies Separate Minority Status To Lingayats, Says Scheduled Caste Benefits Would Be Lost
After the central government has refused to accept the Karnataka government’s request to grant a separate religious minority status to Lingayats/Veershaivas, the community has been protesting at Jantar Mantar, Delhi, reported The Times of India. About 6000 activists, scholars and seers from North Karnataka has been protesting in Delhi for a review in the judgement. They want to enjoy the same minority status as that of Jains and Christians.
In a letter sent to Karnataka government on November 13, centre cited two main reasons for denying the request-
- Lingayats were always recognized as Hindu since 1871 census, the first official census of India.
- All members of Scheduled Caste (SC) who are a part of Lingayat community would lose their status as SC as consequently all the benefits accorded to them by the Constitution.
According to Hindustan Times, the central government submitted a copy of the letter to Karnataka High Court on 10 December. Deputy Secretary Satya Prakash said in the letter “Taking into account the views of the Union Home Ministry and the National Commission for Minorities, it may not be possible for the ministry to accede to the request of the government of Karnataka.”
A division bench of High Court headed by Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari heard several PILs challenging the state government’s proposal sent to the central government in March and disposed of them in view of the letter. Karnataka government sent a proposal to the central government on 23 March 2018 to recognize Lingayats as a distinct religion.
Who are the Lingayats?
The Lingayat/Veerashaiva community are devotees of Shiva. The Lingayats follow 12th-century saint-philosopher Basavanna who rejected ritualistic worship and authority to Vedas, the doctrine of transmigration of the soul, child marriage and ill-treatment of widows. The community constitutes 17 per cent of the total population of Karnataka and are politically dominant in close to 100 of the 224 assembly seats, mostly in North Karnataka.
The Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha, which has been leading the movement, has criticized centre’s stand and said that it will request the central government to reconsider its decision and initiate legal action if necessary. National Secretary General of the Mahasabha and former IAS officer, S M Jaamdar said “The census (1871) itself deems Lingayats as a separate religion along with Jainas. Whoever referred to the census and put it across to Central Government has not read it”, reported The New Indian Express. He also rejected the other reason cited by the centre and added that “If benefits were given to SCs under Sikhism and Buddhism, why can’t it be applied to Lingayats?”