- The agitation seeking minority status for Lingayats is once again revealing the politics of bad faith that often characterises the construction of religious boundaries in India.
- The Lingayats want to distinguish themselves from Hinduism, and in particular Veerashaivism, and they want to be recognised as a religious minority.
Constitutional Provision on Minorities:
- The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Bill, 2004 to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Minorities envisages a change in the way minorities are specified.
- The Cabinet has reportedly approved a proposal in 2007 to define minorities State-wise in line with several Supreme Court judgments.
- For the purpose of this legislation, minority will be specified as such in relation to a particular State and Union Territory by a presidential notification issued after consultation with the State Government; this will be in addition to the five minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Parsis) referred to in the NCM Act, 1992.
- The new approach is not consistent with the understanding developed in the Constituent Assembly on the protection of minorities and the constitutional compact between the State and minority groups.
- Although the Constitution does not define a minority or provide details relating to the geographical and numerical specification of the concept, it is clear that the constitutional scheme envisages this to be determined at the national level.
Who are Lingayats?
- Lingayathism is started in the 12th century by Guru Basaveshwara with the aim to stop the evil, traditions, to stop bifurcating people by birth, to stop male female inequality, to provide education to people.
- Lingayat literature explains the clear proper concept of GOD, and provides a way to worship the GOD in the form of Ishtalinga. And rejects all the superstitions beliefs.
- In Lingayat all are equal by birth; differentiation is based on the knowledge they possess.
- This is equivalent of current education system. i.e. any one becomes an officer by scoring good marks not by taking birth in officer’s house.
The demands of Lingayats:
- The demands for religious minority status have been in existence since the late 19th century, but the exigencies of politics are now creating unprecedented momentum for this demand.
- The Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission and others have successively tried for minority status. In the case of Lingayats, the movement has a social base, and ironically for a sect which sought to transcend caste, a deep caste basis. It is not a demand that is going away easily.
- In India the demand of minority status usually become a thorny public matter for two reasons. Firstly, the state distributes rights and privileges based on whether or not communities are minorities or not. The great drive towards minoritisation is propelled largely by the view that getting a minority tag allows a community greater autonomy over its educational institutions.
- Secondly the drive towards minoritisation is what it does to religion itself. One of the challenges of thinking about the politics of naming religion in India is this.
- Both scholars, and proponents of these movements, often assume that in these cases there are clearly designated categories of communities, whose actions, forms of consciousness, social practices, beliefs, set them easily apart from others.
- There must be some objective theological truth of the matter in which Jains are different from Hindus, or Lingayats from Veerashaivas, or Brahmos from other Vedantins.
- In the modern process of religious identity construction like the Lingayats, three moves are made that are conceptually dubious- Objectification, essentialism, and rigidification.
- Objectification is the idea that there is a single authoritative truth about a sect that can be objectively defined. What is odd about the Lingayat movement is not just that it tries to delineate what its own beliefs are; in the process it seeks to define the core of Hinduism and Veerashaivism itself so that it can be set apart.
- Essentialism is the idea that Hinduism or Veerashaivism will always be wedded to whatever that rotten core is from which you are trying to separate or the conceit that Lingayats will always be progressive and rigidification is the idea that creation of a new form of identity will bring strong forms of identification and political assertion.
- One can construct Basavanna as a secular or a regional figure. But this construction only shows that what practices get designated as religious or secular or as a minority is entirely a function of political power.
- The demand for minority status by Lingayats is also a move to construct identities in a way that is both constricted and rigid.
- It is also turning a great reformer, radical and egalitarian like Basavanna into a mere minoritarian secessionist.