BENGALURU: Amidst raging differences on the issue of separate religion status to Veerashivas/Lingayats, Karnataka Chief Minister today said he was not making any attempts to divide any religion.
"I'm not attempting to divide religion. Five (forums) of them have given petitions, I have sent the five petitions to the (state) minorities commission," he told reporters at Hubbali in north Karnataka.
Veerashaiva/Lingayat is a numerically strong and politically-influential community concentrated largely in the northern part of Karnataka and pays allegiance to the 12th century "social reform movement" initiated by philosopher Basaveshwara.
Siddaramaiah said Veerashiva Mahasabha says they want a separate religion, but it should be Veerashiva-Lingayata dharma, while Lingayats maintain they want only Lingayat dharma.
"What should I do, tell me? As a government, as they have given the petition, with responsibility, I have referred all the petitions to the minority commission," he added.
Siddaramaiah's comments come a day after seers and representatives of Veerashiva tradition at a rally yesterday reiterated their stand that Veerashaiva and Lingayats were one and the same and attempts to divide the community should be thwarted.
They also demanded dissolution of a seven-member committee set up to study the demand for separate religion status, with some even terming it as a move for political gains keeping 2018 assembly polls in mind.
The Karnataka State Minorities Commission (KSMC) has formed the committee, headed by retired high court judge H N Nagamohan Das, to look into the issue and submit a report within four weeks.
The committee will be examining three petitions demanding separate minority religion for Lingayats, one petition arguing that they are Hindus and the other one by the Akhila Bharata Veerashaiva Mahasabha that demands minority religion tag for Veerashaiva-Lingayat together.
The demand for a separate religion tag to Veerashaiva/Lingayat faiths has surfaced amidst resentment from within over projecting the two sects as the same.
The Veerashaiva Mahasabha' asserts that Veerashaiva and Lingayats are the same, the other group wants the separate religion tag only for Lingayats.
The latter believes that Veerashaiva is one among the seven sects of Shaivas, which is part of Hinduism.
The BJP and several sections of the Hindu community have maintained a cautious stance keeping away from the move to give Veerashaiva/Lingayat separate religion status.
They have accused the Siddaramaiah government of dividing the society to draw political mileage ahead of assembly elections due early next year.