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A day after the Siddaramaiah government decided to grant religious minority status to Lingayats + , it emerged that the Congress-led UPA government had rejected a proposal for Lingayats + to be declared a separate religion in 2013.
The government had said such a tag would disadvantage people belonging to scheduled castes who follow the Veerashaiva-Lingayat dharma. The BJP seized on the contradiction, saying the Congress move was a desperate bid to retain power by dividing Hindus. The 2013 proposal was made by the All India Veerashaiva Mahasabha.
Quoting a November 14, 2013 letter from the Registrar-General of India to the state government, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said the then government had called the Veerashaiva-Lingayats a sect of Hinduism and not a separate religion.The registrar-general’s letter called the Mahasabha’s demand “not logical” and denied a separate code or column in the 2011Census. It said: “If Veerashaiva-Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code/column than Hindu, all SCs professing the Veerashaiva-Lingayat sect will lose their constitutional status, since SCs can be only from Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh along with their sects.”
Meghwal said Siddaramaiah had gone against the UPA government’s view to gain electoral advantage. BS Yeddyurappa of the BJP said he was awaiting the view of community associations. The Veerashaiva Mahasabha has called for a meeting on Friday. With Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, on its side, the BJP banks heavily on the community for its bid to return to office. “The state committee, which looked into technicalities about separate religious identity to the community, has members who are mostly nonbelievers or atheists. Therefore, we can’t trust them,” said a senior BJP leader from Karnataka.
“How is Congress doing what it accuses BJP of — using religion to divide society,” Shivakumar Udasi, BJP MP from Haveri, said. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said BJP opposes the move on many counts. “Scheduled castes following Veerashaiva-Lingayat dharma will lose their rights if a separate religion status is given,” he said.
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