Karnataka Cabinet’s decision on Veerashaiva-Lingayat issue EXPLOSIVE IN CONTENT & MALICIOUS IN INTENT
“Religion is the opium of the masses,” is one of the famous statements of Karl Marx. And Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah – who claims to be a socialist and Left of Centre politician – seems to have taken Marx seriously and copiously fed this opium to the Lingayat-Veerashaiva community to achieve his petty, narrow and immediate electoral considerations.
Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah has been accused of driving a wedge in the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community by using the “seemingly perceptional differences” that existed since ages to garner a few votes here and there in order to return to power in the forth coming elections.
But in the process Siddaramaiah’s move will keep the society perpetually divided and boiling for generations to come because of which the society has to suffer for a long time. This is the considered view of the cross-section of the society. There is no doubt that this is Siddaramaiah’s biggest and most dangerous gamble ever he has played in his 45-years of political career. And this is as dangerous, as lethal and as volatile as the one played by Smt Indira Gandhi in Punjab in the early 80s.
Then Chief of BBC for South Asia, Mark Tully had authored a book titled “Amritsar – Mrs Indira Gandhi’s last battle” He had graphically narrated how Indira Gandhi, for the sake of votes and to cut Akali Dal to size, created a Frankenstein in Sant Jarnailsingh Bhindranwale that later led to bleeding of Punjab and took her own life.
Siddaramaiah too has played with the fire by hurting the sentiments and emotions of the highly-sensitive natured Veerashaiva-Lingayats and this is, going by all means, is his last battle. This move may either make or mar his political prospects as well as that of his party but what is fact is that politics will never be the same in Karnataka, irrespective of who wins the May 2018 elections.
Karnataka cabinet arrived at the decision to accord religious minority status to Lingayat, and among Veerashaiva’s those who believe in Basava philosophy. By this move, it is being seen as bifurcating Veerashaiva and Lingayats as well driving a wedge among the Veerashaivas as believers and non-believers in Basava philosophy.
The five seers – Pancha Peethaadhipathis – of the Veerashaiva sect are up in arms against the Congress government’s move to “poke its nose in religious affairs” and have taken pledge to over-throw this government having divisive agenda. “We believe in Renuka – presiding deity of the Panchapeethaas – as well Basava philosophy. Siddaramaiah has no right to divide us on the basis of believers and non-believers. This is an outrageous act,” said Rambhapuri Mahaswami.
The dispute has a history of over 118 years when British Census Officer Ethoven of Bombay declared in 1900 that Lingayat – who were majority – declared that Lingayats are not Hindus. This was a devious attempt keeping in consonance with the divide and rule policy of the Englishmen. From then on, the dispute acquired a dangerous dimension slowly but surely.
What added to the fire is the “pervert interpretation” of the concept of Dharma and Hindu way by some seers and pseudo-scholars who repeatedly claimed that Lingayats are not Hindus as “they do not believe in Vedic scriptures and Vedic Principles” This anti-Hindu feeling was constantly fed into the psyche of the people by Smt Maathe Mahadevi, a 68-year old controversial seer, who has formed a outfit of her own to carry this anti-Hindu agenda.
Way back in 1991, an organisation of Veerashasiva-Lingayats had approached the Union Ministry of Home Affairs seeking a separate code for Lingayats to be enumerated as Non-Hindus. That was a first step towards balkanisation of the Hindu community. However, the MHA had rejected the petition by stating that “Veerashaiva-Lingayat” community is a part of the Hindu fold and cannot be considered as non-Hindu.
In fact, the Supreme Court’s observations and the interpretation of the Constitution are clear in this regard. Any religious thought process, ritual, mode of worship, spiritual line of thinking that has its origin is to be regarded as Hindu. That is the reason why Islam, Christiantiy and Jews are considered as Non-Hindus and Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains and Parsees are considered as Hindu-Minority.
What has angered both Lingayats and Veerashaivas over the Karnataka cabinet decision is that this recommendation will only help the rich and prosperous leaders of the community who run educational institutions as they would get facilities as obtained by Muslim and Christian minorities. These minority institutions are not required to follow RTE and they are not required to give seats to majority seats. An ordinary man from the Lingayat-Veerashaiva community on the street is not going to be benefitted in terms of reservation in employment or admission to professional colleges.
“Siddaramaiah is pursuing Sonia Gandhi’s anti-Hindu
Agenda” — Shobha Karandlaje, Mp, BJP
What is your take on the cabinet’s decision to accord minority status to Veerashaiva-Lingayat community?
This is a most outrageous move on the part of chief minister Siddaramaiah. This is not just dividing the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community but a step towards the balkanisation of the entire Hindu society. Sonia Gandhi’s sinister design and diabolical anti-Hindu agenda is being vigorously pursued by chief minister Siddaramaiah.
Can you elaborate on this?
Divide and Rule is the policy that was first started by the British. They divided Hindus and Muslims. That was adapted by the Congress. This country’s oldest party divided the Hindus and Muslims as well as Christians. Later it divided the society on the basis of forward and backward. Minority appeasement is the tool it has been using to pursue its divisive agenda. So, this divide and rule policy adopted by Siddaramaiah is in perfect consonance of Congress party’s culture and nature.
How does the BJP counter this move?
BJP is not at all worried about its electoral prospects but yes, definitely we are concerned because it damages the society. Siddaramaiah’s nefarious design will keep the society perpetually divided. It is not the question of this party getting so much votes and that party getting so much votes. What after the elections are over? Will not the society remain permanently damaged? This is a myopic and disastrous move.
You have not answered my question. How will you counter this move?
BJP draws sustenance and strength from all sections of society. Culture is a great unifier. In Karnataka “sharana culture” (Sharana Samskriti) is the glue that binds all section of society. BJP would like to use culture (samskriti) to reinforce the unity and oneness of the society. This is an effective counter to Siddaramaiah’s divisive politics who is abusing caste as toxic to divide the society.
Will this move of Siddaramaiah cut the BJP’s Lingayat vote base?
BJP draws sustenance and strength from all sections of society. No party can win the elections on the basis of one community or one religion or one caste. Siddaramaiah’s move has angered not only the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community but also other Hindu religious denominations. The mood is crystallising against the Congress.
Even as the Congress government started preparations to notify the cabinet decision, a meeting of the influential Muslim leaders was held in an unidentified place to discuss the pros and cons of the move. They were of the unanimous view that “if Lingayaths – who are numerically strong and educationally-forward as Minorities, then they would lose the ground as every benefit would be gobbled by the Lingayats.
The Karnataka cabinet decision could run the risk of getting nullified as a petition has been filed in the Karnataka High Court questioning the constitution of the seven-member Justice Nagamohan Das committee. The high court has clearly stated that the “decision of the Nagamohan Das committee will be based on the outcome of the high court’s verdict”. Justice Nagamohan Das committee has been questioned on two grounds; that the government has no locus standi to decide the status of religion and two, that the committee has no representatives from Lingayat-Veerashaiva community.
In the event of Karnataka High Court ruling against the government, then the entire exercise will be “an extravagant exercise in utter futility.” Those who are against the cabinet decision are pinning their hopes on the high court’s outcome which will hear the petition on April 3.
Interestingly, both the BJP and the Congress are edgy over the outcome of the cabinet’s decision. While the BJP is still studying the implication on its vote-base, the Congress leadership – more specially the original Congressmen – are wary of its fall-out as Siddaramaiah – a non-Lingayat (kuruba) – is accused of dividing the monolith Lingayat-Veerashaiva community. “This could have been avoided. This is a very dangerous game being played by the chief minister. We could have evolved better strategies to counter the BJP and Yeddyurappa,” a top Congress leader told Uday India on the conditions of anonymity.
“Government cannot give religion status to any group”
Justice Shivaraj Patil
Former Judge of the Supreme Court
Suave and sober; erudite and pragmatic; soft-spoken & mild-mannered; clarity and conviction –that sums up the personality of Justice Shivaraj Patil, former judge of the Supreme Court. Hailing from the backward region of Gulbarga by commencing his practice there, Justice Patil’s ascendency to the highest echelons of judiciary is sheerly through his perseverance, struggle and practice.
Known for impeccably honest in his professional life spanning over five decades, Justice Patil – who belongs to the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community – was calm and composed when he gave his remarks to Uday India.
- Governments are not empowered to give religious status to any group.
- Constitution does not empower any government to do that.
- There are two parts in the entire issue; first is recognition of a religion; the second is grant of minority status considering the economic backwardness of a particular group.
- A community may be prosperous in one region and economically backward in the other region. Then what is the way out?
- The Minority Commission – at the Central and State level – will have to look into the issue.
On the day the Election Commission announced the dates for the Assembly elections, national
BJP President Amit Shah was on the spree of visiting all the influential Lingayat-Veerashaiva Mutts in Central Karnataka. But BJP dismisses this as a routine event and not election-centric.
Mythological Background & Historical View of
Veerashaiva-Lingayat — A Chronology
- Lord Veerabhadra, son of Lord Shiva, is believed to be founder and propagator of Veerashaiva philosophy.
- The complete philosophy of Veerashaiva philosophy is explained in the text “Siddhantha Shikhamani”.
- Scholars of Veerashaivism trace their roots to Hindu traditions and practices.
- It is believed that the Jagadguru Panchacharya of the Veerashaiva cult (The Five Sages) emerged from the Lingas at the commencement of each Yuga and established the Veerashaiva Dharma.
- The five sages set up Five Peethas (Panch Peetha) of this philosophy each at Rambhapuri (Karnataka), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), Kedar (Uttarakhand), Srishailam (Andhra Pradesh) and Kashi (Uttar Pradesh).
- These five mutts have been doing great work in the field of spirituality, social and religious upliftment of the people.
- Many of these mutts are managing renowned temples which have Hindus of all faiths and traditions as devotees.
- There is a reference to the philosophy of Lingadhaaranam (wearing of Linga around the neck) made in the Anushasana Parva of Mahabharata during a conversation between Yudhishtir and Bheeshma.
- This clearly shows that the Lingadhaaranam practise existed even before the birth of Basaveshwara.
- There is a reference in the “Guruvamshakavya” published by Sri Sringeri Sharada Peetham that the sacred Chandramouleshwara Linga (Shiva Linga) that is one of the presiding deity of the Sringeri Mutt was given by Jagadguru Renukacharya of the Rambhapuri Mutt to Adi Shankaracharya in 8th century. This is clear evidence that there is no distinction between Veerashaiva-Lingayat and other Hindu practices.
- In the year 1941, the High Court of Allahabad made an observation regarding the existence of
the Veerashaiva Pancha Peethas prior to 574 AD (6th Century) while adjudicating the dispute between Kashi Peetha and its creditors. The high court also had made an observation regarding the contribution made by the Kashi Peetha for the development of Banaras Hindu University.
- All the above historical references and evidences proves the existence of Veerashaiva philosophy which includes worshipping of Shiva Linga and Lingadhaaranam (wearing of Linga around the neck) prior to 3rd century. It also points towards the indistinguishable commonality betweenVeerashaiva-Lingayat cult and Hindu traditions.
“Our President is known to interact with dharmacharyas, swamijis, religious scholars on regular basis wherever he visits. Unlike our president, Rahul Gandhi is a election-centric Hindu. He donned the saffron in Gujarat, he donned cross in Meghalaya and in Karnataka he is donning the Muslim skull cap. There is no need for the BJP to do this because people can differentiate between real, original and genuine Hindu like Narendra Modi & Amit Shah and a fake Hindu like Rahul Gandhi,”said Bharathi Magdum, BJP state secretary.
While the outcome of the elections are going to be thrilling, politics in Karnataka, however, will never be the same for a long time to come.
By S. A. Hemantha Kumar from bengaluru