The state government, on March 19, 2018, accepted suggestions of the Nagamohan Das committee to recognize Lingayats as a separate religion. The state government accepted the suggestion of Nagamohan committee under section 2D of the State Minorities Commission Act. Now the proposal will depend on the central government for final approval. Is this a ploy by the Congress to lure voters, or will this step divide the voters further?
Lingayats are followers of 12th-century social reformer Basaveshwara. It is a community that is made-up of different castes within Hinduism, united by their allegiances to the teachings of Basaveshwara, saint of the bhakti movement.
Lingayats have been revolting against oppression and discrimination by the Veerashaivas, who are politically and economically a dominant group within the community. The issue came into the limelight when Chief Minister Siddaramaiah promised to consider their demands. The Karnataka State Minorities had decided to form a seven-member committee, headed by retired judge HN Nagamohan. After a few days, the committee submitted a report in favour of the Lingayats. That Lingayats would be considered as a religious minority, while the community of Veershaivas that was also asking to be treated as a religious minority would not.
Article 30 is classified under Part 3 of the Indian Constitution, that clarifies fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens of India irrespective of their religion, caste and sex. Article 30 upholds “right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions”. Lingayats are categorized under 3(B) of the Karnataka Reservation and thus entitled to 5% reservation along with Christians, Jains and other communities. Lingayats have 99 sub-castes that are listed under multiples categories, and would thus get a higher allocation of reservation with the changes in their religious status. For the moment, there will not be any change in the reservation for education and jobs, since the state government has left it to the centre to take a decision on the issue. But they will enjoy 15% reservation under categories 2A and 3B.
This is a big move taken by the Congress to split the vote bank of BJP, as the Lingayats have an influence on nearly 100 seats in the 224 member assembly. The Congress has put the BJP in a bind, as favouring one community will upset the other, but the BJP has accused Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah of playing with fire. This can turn into a test for the Modi government.
Hinduism is not a religion like Islam or Christianity. Unlike them, it encompasses multiple native scriptures/deities/cultures/subcultures of the Indian sub-continent under its umbrella. The decision is on the central government, but if we give the benefit of something to only one community, it does not portray a good picture of harmony among the entire nation.