The contentious issue of according religious minority status to the dominantLingayat/Veerashaiva community would come up for discussion in the Karnataka cabinet tomorrow, Chief MinisterSiddaramaiah today said. The cabinet had on March 8 discussed the issue inconclusively, amidst reports of differences between Ministers inthe cabinet belonging to both Veerashaiva and Lingayatcommunity. "There are no two factions among the cabinet ministers, there is only one faction....we will discuss tomorrow (in the cabinet meeting)," Siddaramaiah told reporters in Davangere, in response to a question. "Expressing opinion and having difference of opinion should be there in a democracy.
It is the life of any democracy," he said in response to another question. The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/ Lingayat faiths has surfaced from the numerically strong and politically-influential community, amidst resentment from within over projecting the two communities as the same. While one section led by Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has demanded separate religion status, asserting that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other group wants it only for Lingayats as they believe that Veerashaivas one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism. Of late, some Lingayats have also stated that theywere open to having the Veerashaivas under their umbrella, but the Lingayat nomenclature was non negotiable. Karnataka State Minorities Commission had formed a seven-member committee, headed by retired high court Judge H NNagamohan Das on the issue which has submitted its report onMarch 2 stating that "Lingayats in Karnataka may be consideredas religious minority." The Lingayat/Veerashaiva community that owes allegiance to the 12th century "social reform movement" initiated by Basaveshwara has a substantial population in Karnataka, especially in the northern parts of the state. The BJP and several sections of the Hindu community have maintained a cautious stance keeping away from the move to give Veerashaiva/Lingayat separate religion status. They have accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of assembly elections due in April/May.
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