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Wednesday 29 January 2020

Lingayat issue: Shah meets chief pontiff of Siddaganga Mutt

The meeting is considered significant in the wake of the political row sparked off in poll-bound Karnataka after the Congress government in the State has decided to designate Lingayat community as a 'separate religious group'

New Delhi/Bangalore: BJP national president Amit Shah on Monday met ‘Walking God’ Sri Sri Shivakumara Swami, chief pontiff of Siddaganga Mutt at Tumakuru in Karnataka. The meeting is considered significant in the wake of the political row sparked off in poll-bound Karnataka after the Indian National Congress (INC) government in the State decided to grant minority status to Lingayats and Veerashaivas who believe in Basava Tattva.

“Today I had the good fortune to seek blessings from the ‘Walking God’ Sri Sri Sri Shivakumara Swamiji of Siddhaganga Mutt, Tumakuru. His tireless work even at his advanced age is inspiring. His life is a living lesson and guiding light for all of us,”Mr Shah tweeted along with photographs of his falling on the feet of the popular sage.

Lingayats constitute a considerable part of the electorate in the State and the Karnataka government’s move is said to have caused some embarrassment to the BJP as the party was banking on popular Lingayat leader BS Yeddyurappa for the ensuing elections.

Emerging from the meeting, Shah told journalists, “This is for the first time I got an opportunity to meet the great sage. I am pleased to get his blessings…..Mere looking at him gives the impression that one has met God.”

“The blessing of Swamiji will definitely give a boost to our strength when the BJP is fighting the elections under the leadership of Yeddyurappa,” Amit Shah later said.

Retired IAS officer, SN Jamdaar, who spearheaded the movement for a separate minority religion status for Lingayats, says that the community welcomes the State government’s move.

Meanwhile, the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha has rejected the government’s decision and called it a “move to divide the Veerashaiva-Lingayat community”.

“If you are really interested in the community to say Veerashaiva and Lingayat is one and the same. Other than this, the govt is saying everything else. Don’t create differences between person to person and within the community,” the Mahasabha’s statement issued on Friday said.

Lingayats, a distinct Shaivite religious tradition, are followers of the 12th-century poet-philosopher-social reformer Basaveshwara who rebelled against established Hindu tradition by defying the caste system and Vedic rituals.

In their bid for the status of a separate religion, the Lingayats wanted to dissociate themselves from Veerashaivas, also a Shaivite religious tradition, whose followers adhere to the Vedas.

The movement for a separate religion tag, which was started as far back as 1942, was resurrected in 2017 after Chief Minister Siddaramaiah’s promise to look into the demand for a separate religion status for Lingayats and Veerashaivas.

In December 2017, a seven-member expert committee was formed to study five separate demands, three of which were for a separate minority religion status for Lingayats. One representation stated that the Lingayat community members are Hindus and another demanding minority religion tag for the Veerashaiva-Lingayat sect.

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