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Amid growing differences among the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community leaders on the issue of separate religion status, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah today said the government has no stand onthe matter. The chief minister also said that a "misconception" is being created that he instigated the separate religion demand. "Government has no stand on this.
There is this misconception that I started the issue," Siddaramaiah said. Hesaid the Veerashaiva Mahasabha had organised a felicitation for him and requested him to ask the Centre to recommend anindependent religion status to them. "I said they should unitedly give the request and that the government after examining it will make the recommendation. What is wrong in that? The issue was not initiated by me, it is they who made the request," he told reporters in Chamarajanagar district. Leaders and pontiffs who are propagating thatLingayats are separate from Veerashaivas, today held a meetingin the city to plan their strategy. Stating that several religious and community leadershad made requests for separate religion status, Siddaramaiah said "I have only told them to come together with a request." The clamour for granting separate religion statusto the dominant Veerashaiva-Lingayat community has grown after Siddaramaiah reportedly gave an assurance. At an eventorganised by the Mahasabha, he had assured that he was ready to make a recommendation to the Centre if the entire community reached a consensus. As the issue gained momentum, resentment brewed within the community over projecting Lingayats andVeerashaivas as the same. While one section under 'Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha' has demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other wants it only for Lingayats as they believe that Veerashaiva is one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism. The Veerashaiva-Lingayat community that paysallegiance to the 12th century "social reform movement"initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state. They are also present in parts of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana, among others. Though Congress support to a separate religion cause ahead of the 2018 assembly polls was seen as an attempt to cause damage to the BJP, which enjoys considerable support from the community, it now stands divided between Lingayat andVeerashaiva cause. The BJP and several sections of the Hindu communityare opposed to the move to give Veerashaiva-Lingayat separate religion status and have accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of assembly elections due early next year.
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