The Ministry of Home Affairs, in an internal note, has said that granting the Lingayat community religious minority status would “deprive” them of the Scheduled Caste status. The note also warned of “widespread implications” if other sects of Hinduism also raise similar demands, The Indian Express reported on Saturday.
On March 23, the Siddaramaiah government in Karnataka decided to recommend granting minority status to Lingayats to the Centre. The Karnataka Minority Welfare Department had issued a notification saying those who follow the Basava philosophy will be considered a Lingayat. The decision is expected to have a major impact on the Assembly elections in May as the community makes up about 17% of the electorate.
The home ministry has not made a final decision yet, but has warned that “Arya Samaj, Radhaswami, Vaishnava and a few other sects of the Hinduism” that “also do not adhere to typical Brahminical Hinduism” may “line up to be declared as separate religious entities”, the report said. The ministry is not in a hurry to come to a decision either as the Model Code of Conduct is in place in Karnataka, unidentified officials told The Indian Express.
Under the National Commission of Minorities Act, 1992, Muslims, Christian, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains are classified as minorities. Jains were the last to get the tag in 2014.
The Bharatiya Janata Party had criticised the Congress government’s decision on the Lingayats. BJP National President Amit Shah had claimed that the move was aimed at preventing Karnataka BJP President BS Yeddyurappa from becoming the chief minister.
A Veerashaiva group had opposed the government’s decision to grant religious minority status only to those who follow the philosophy of Basava – a 12th-century Lingayat philosopher, poet and social reformer – and demanded that the entire Veerashaiva-Lingayat sect be given the status.