Monday, April 22, 2019

Lingayats and demand for separate minority religion status

Lingayats and demand for separate minority religion status

News:  

The Karnataka government has sent the proposal granting Lingayats separate religious minority status to the central government for consideration.

Background information

  1. Lingayats are numerically and politically strong community of Karnataka, want to be categorised as a religious group separate from Hindus. Followers of the 12th century social reformer-philosopher-poet Basaveshwara who defied the caste system and Vedic rituals, they argue that the premise of this rebellion was rooted in opposition to the established Hindu order
  2. Though Lingayats worship Shiva, they say the concept of ‘Ishta Linga’ (personal god) and rules of conduct prescribed by Basaveshwara cannot be equated to the Hindu way of life.
  3. Basaweswara:  was a 12th-century Lingayat philosopher, statesman, Kannada poet in the Niraakaara Shiva-focused Bhakti movement and a social reformer during the reign of the Kalachuri-dynasty king Bijjala I in Karnataka, India.
  1. Basavanna spread social awareness through his poetry, popularly known as Vachanaas
  2. Basavanna rejected gender or social discrimination, superstitions and rituals such as the wearing of sacred thread
  3. He introduced new public institutions such as the Anubhava Mantapa (or, the "hall of spiritual experience"),which welcomed men and women from all socio-economic backgrounds to discuss spiritual and mundane questions of life, in open.
  4. His movement is often called as Sharana Movement which had characteristics of Bhakti movement. A poet and saint Akka Mahadevi was also associated with it.
  1. Veerashaivism is a Shaivism subtradition within Lingayatism. According to tradition, it was transmitted by five Pancharayas. Veerashaiva's are also called Veerashaiva Lingayats, and the terms Veerashaivism and Lingayatism have been used synonymously, both by public and recognized by governments. Yet, the identity or difference between Lingayatism and Veerashaivism is a point of contention.

What are the benefits of getting a minority tag?

There are various religious minorities in India namely Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis, Jains and Buddhists. The constitution prescribes certain safeguards or rights to minorities although it does not define the term minority.
  1. Article 29(1) -  Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same
  2. Article 29(2) - No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them.
  3. Article 30(1) - All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  1. In making any law providing for the compulsory acquisition of any property of an educational institution established and administered by a minority, the State shall ensure that the amount fixed by or determined under such law for the acquisition of such property is such as would not restrict or abrogate the right guaranteed under that clause.
  1. Article 30(2) - The state shall not, in granting aid to educational institutions, discriminate against any educational institution on the ground that it is under the management of a minority, whether based on religion or language.

The current issue explained

There are 2 issues involved - one the demand for separate religious identity has taken the form of a specific demand for minority religion status. Two, the Lingayats argue that Veerashaivas, the followers of Pancha Peethas, are not the same as them.
The ongoing agitation is fuelled by arguments by a faction of the Veerashaivas insisting that the roots of the “entire community” lie within Hinduism and, hence, the demand for a separate religion is invalid according to some factions.
The Karnataka government had constituted a committee headed by retired high court Judge H N Nagamohan Das in December last year that submitted its report on March 2. It  recommended providing minority status to Lingayats and therefore the state government has sent the proposal to centre.
The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the numerically strong and politically influential community, amid resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same.

Way forward:

The centre and state must examine the question rationally without politicizing the issue to gain poll prospects.
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