As the Lingayat issue has been in the news for sometime now, and now that Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah has cleared the minority tag for the community, I felt I should pen down a few thoughts about it. This could be taken as an average Lingayat’s response to CM Siddaramaiah.
Dear CM Siddaramaiah, an average Lingayat has always seen himself as a proud Hindu, so let me begin by giving you some History lessons first.
Lingayat vs Veerashaiva’s is a not a new debate between the two communities, it has been happening for a few decades now – especially in the post-Independence scenario. So, let’s first dive into it briefly, and see what it’s really about.
Basavanna is the founder of Lingayat . Lingayat was founded as a reaction to the gradual rigidifying of the caste system. Lingayat was founded on the premise that all are equal, and that there should be no distinction between people. Lingayat as a movement opposed ritual practices, idol worship and other prevalent practices of the time. But, a Lingayat could carry an ishtalinga in his ‘kardige’ (it is a Linga in shape of a stone, which is put into something like a locket around the neck). There is no authentic historical text pointing towards when Veerashaivism started. Though some of them say it is the same as Lingayat,
Veerashaivas seem to be older than Lingayats. They are divided into 5 peethas/mutts – Kashi Mutt, Rameshwaram Mutt, Ujjain Mutt, Rambhapura Mutt and Srisaila Mutt. If one examines the difference between these two, Lingayats complain of oppression by the Veerashaivas, and state strongly that they are not Hindus and are different from them in their way of life. Lingayats follow Basavanna’s vachanas and Veerashaiva’s follow Vedas and other Vedic texts. Lingayats do not indulge in any idol worship, except the ishtalinga which is a stone (Linga), but symbolizes the formless God. Veerashaivas on the other hand worship Shiva in the form of a Linga. One interesting fact is that the dharmadhikari of Kedarnath and Srisailam – two of the most important Hindu pilgrim centers- are Jangama Lingayats (i.e., the highest sub-sect of Lingayats also known as Lingayat Brahmins) and this is mandated by Sri Adi Shankaracharya himself.
Dear CM Siddaramaiah, do you know one of the earliest proponents of Lingayat becoming a separate religion was Reverend Chenappa Uttangi, whose grandfather had converted to Christianity courtesy the Basel Mission. A few confidential reports call him one of the most ‘effective evangelists’ they had during that period (early 1900s). He gave a lot of sermons on how Lingayats are different from Hindus and have their own way of life. He went to the extent of saying – “Jesus is the light of the world, and Basava is the light of Asia”, and “Basava is the best Christian, and Jesus is the best Lingayat”.
Dear CM Siddaramaiah it is all too visible that it is more of a political flare-up rather than a religious one. Lingayats/Veerashaivas are the state’s single biggest community and have largely supported the BJP of late. This move before the election is nothing but a dole offered to the Lingayats, attempting to woo them back towards the Congress.
Yes, there have been a few genuine points raised by mathadipathis, but they haven’t demanded a minority tag. They have just demanded a relook into certain policies. For instance, for those who live in Karnataka, it’s a known fact that Lingayats/Veerashaivas control a large number of educational institutions, and almost each one of them provides free education too. I shall take the instance of Siddganga Matha, Tumakuru and Suttur Matha, Mysuru. Controlling huge institutions such as these isn’t easy, it comes at a huge cost. Policies aren’t favorable to them either, the RTE being the biggest example. Also, the government was mulling about bringing the mathas under their control just like temples, but after huge protests by the mathas, they had to backtrack from this idea.
Dear CM Siddaramaiah, This could have been negated, and many more benefits could have been availed by getting a minority tag. The common Lingayats too would get a host of benefits like job reservations, but those supporting the move is limited to very few.
Let me make this very clear CM Siddaramaiah, that An average Lingayat considers himself a Hindu. The average Lingayat follows Hindu customs and visits Temples.
As your government has sent the recommendation to the central government, it would be wise for the central government to refer it to an expert committee and slowly kill this recommendation, which has been sent only to further the political interests of the party in power in the state. If this succeeds, many states would have various communities up in arms, demanding that they be added to the backward castes, or worse that they be declared a minority religion. This is a precarious situation. This would only break up Hinduism. Rejecting this recommendation is in the best interest of the country.
The policy of divide and rule is not something new to India, and dear CM Siddaramaiah, the Congress Party seems to have learnt from the best – the British. Right from pitting Muslims versus Hindus, to different communities against each other, they are doing it with panache. From inciting the Jats in Haryana, the Marathas in Maharashtra, the Patels in Gujarat and now the Lingayats in Karnataka, the Congress seem to have a dangerous ploy – they are happy to watch the country burn in their quest for power. Notice how in all the flare-ups I have mentioned, the communities in question are the major communities in their respective states. Congress is playing with a fire they cannot control, which will not only engulf them, but the nation itself.