The Hindu – Religion tag for Lingayat: Why a plea was set aside earlier

An official, citing various records, had inferred that Veerashaiva/Lingayat is a sect of Hindu

Girish Pattanashetti

Hubballi-Karnataka-India, 4 August 2017. While there is growing demand for separate religion tag for Veerashaiva/Lingayat Dharma, with the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha reiterating it, the body’s earlier efforts on the similar lines had not met with success. Some within the community fear that forwarding the same demand again might meet the same end.

The Veerashaiva Mahasabha, considered a representative body of the community, had approached the High Court of Karnataka seeking separate code for Veerashaiva/Lingayat in the census by filing a writ petition in 1990.

The court had dismissed the petition on the ground that the census instructions to the enumerators allow all religions to be faithfully recorded as reported by the respondents. Thus, all the religions have a fair and equal opportunity to be recorded and providing a code is only an administrative convenience.

What is more interesting is the reply of the Assistant Registrar General of India Pratibha Kumari (dated 14/11/2013) to the letter submitted to the Registrar General of India by the Mahasabha. She recalled the 1990 court order, census reports and works of British writers to argue why the plea of the mahasabha cannot be entertained.

Her objections stem mainly from the data available on the pre-Independence census reports and two works of British authors. In the reply, it is mentioned that the census of pre-Independence period (1891, 1901, 1911, and 1931) reports Lingayats to be “caste Hindu”.

In the reply, it is stated that standard ethnographic literature also substantiate the fact that Lingayat/Veerashaiva is a sect evolved from Hinduism, but it rejects completely the traditional temple cult dominated by Brahmin priest.
“As described by C.B. Brown… Lingayats are anti-Brahminical worshippers of Siva.” Ms. Pratibha Kumari further says that they are disciples of Basavanna whom they regard as a form of God Shiva.

She also quotes from Thurstone’s Castes and Tribes of Southern India (1909: rpt; 1975, Vol IV, page 236) where he says: “Lingayats have been aptly described as a peaceable race of Hindu Puritans. Their religion is a simple one. They acknowledge only one God Siva, and reject the other two persons of the Hindu triad.”

Ms Pratibha Kumari says from the details stated above, that it is inferred that Veerashaiva/Lingayat is a sect of Hindu and not an independent religion.

Interestingly, she has also made an observation regarding people belonging to Scheduled Castes community losing their reservation if the demand is met.

“Over and above, if Veerashaiva/Lingayat is treated as a separate religion by providing separate code other 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,” she said in the letter.

Two views

However, several seers who contend that Lingayat and Veerashaiva are different, feel the term Veerashaiva was the reason for rejection, since it has its roots in Hinduism.

Sanjay Makal, president of Vishwa Lingayata Mahasabha, argues: “What is required now is to understand the reasons for rejection and go with the Lingayat nomenclature for which there is adequate material to support the demand.”

Contesting this, State president of the All-India Veerashaiva Mahasabha. N Thippanna, argued that the 2013 petition had not been fully rejected, but was still pending. “We are going to pursue it after taking everyone into confidence, and we will also seek a recommendation letter from the State government once the differences over Lingayat and Veerashaiva are sorted out,” he said.

Visiting religious heads

On Thursday, the mahasabha began the process of approaching religious heads and scholars in its bid to arrive at a consensus on the nomenclature. It’s national president Shamanur Shivashankarappa and Mr. Thippanna visited Sri Siddalinga Swami of Tontadarya Mutt in Gadag and invited him to participate in a meeting on the issue.


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