DK Shivakumar seeks forgiveness for Congress' 'interference' in Lingayat issue, says party committed a crime

In what could become a potent weapon for BJP in Karnataka, state water resources minister DK Shivakumar on Thursday admitted that the Congress had made a mistake by advocating for a separate religion tag for the Lingayat community. He said that getting involved in the Lingayat issue that had cropped up a few months before the state's Assembly elections in March was a clear mistake by his government. Some sections of the community had demanded that they be recognised as a religion separate from Hinduism.

Shivakumar was speaking at the Dussehra Sammelan of the Rambhapuri seer, Veer Someshwara Shivarcharya Swami in the Gadag district of the state. According to reports, Shivakumar said, "Our party has made a big mistake in this state. I don't deny it. I always believed, no government should interfere in matters of religion and caste. It was a crime made by our government. Many ministers, leaders spoke about the issue but the verdict of the people in the election is proof that governments should not interfere in these matters. If our government has made a mistake, we ask you for forgiveness."

On 19 March, the then-Congress government had accepted the suggestions of an expert committee under Section 2(D) of the state Minorities Commission Act, , according to a report by The Economic TimesThe proposal was then sent to the Centre for consideration and a decision is yet to be taken.

Lingayats, essentially are the followers of 12th century reformer Basavanna who preached against the prevalent caste system in Hinduism. There are also Veerashaivas who follow the teachings of Sri Renukacharya, who believed in Vedas, puranas and the caste system. Veerashaivas and Lingayats, who both worship Shiva, have always been considered one and the same. But there are some who contend they are different. They argue that Veerashaivas are a Shiva-sect of Hinduism, while the Lingayats must be deemed to belong to a different religion.

The Lingayats have for long been estimated to constitute up to 17 percent of Karnataka’s population and largely support the BJP, which is cocksure of forming the next government.

In light of this fact, the Congress' move to grant the community a separate religion tag was seen as an election gimmick, aimed at wooing a politically important community. The issue was used by the BJP to attack then Siddaramaiah-led government. While the party maintained a cautious stance, keeping away from the move to give Veerashaiva/Lingayat a separate religion status, it accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of the last Assembly elections.


Updated Date: Oct 18, 2018 16:21:41 IST