Online Classes :- Current Affairs Part-3

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Division sums

The Karnataka government’s decision to accept the recommendation of an expert panel to identify the Lingayats as a separate religious community and move the Centre to ratify the proposal has come at a politically fraught time. The Siddaramaiah government is nearing the end of its tenure and the Election Commission is expected to announce the schedule for assembly elections any day now. The claim of a section of the Lingayat community to a separate religious identity, though not a recent one nor instigated by the current government, has serious social and political implications. It has the potential to divide an already polarised society and trigger similar demands elsewhere. Given the contentious nature of the Lingayat demand, the Congress government should have resisted the temptation to link it with the electoral calculus and waited for the new government to negotiate a consensus on the claim.
The Lingayats, who constitute nearly 17 per cent of the Karnataka population, are known as a political constituency of the BJP. However, the community is divided over the claim that it constitutes a religious group distinct from Hindus. An influential section, namely the Veerashaiva Lingayats, considers the Lingayat community to be a sect within the Hindu fold and rejects attempts to distinguish it as a unique, independent faith. Those who claim that the Lingayats constitute a distinct religion argue that the founder of the sect, the 12-century saint-reformer, Basavanna, had rejected the tenets of Hinduism and the caste-centric social order it supported. Both voices have constructed separate histories to privilege their respective versions of the Lingayat tradition. At various times in history, the balance of forces within the community has shifted between those who perceive the Basava tradition as a reformist sect within Hinduism and others who consider it as a rupture with Hinduism. If these differences come to the fore, as is happening now, the Lingayats may cease to exist as a singular political community. This could upset the electoral calculations of the BJP, which has been trying to build a consolidated Hindu vote in the state.
The question is: Should this fraught matter, which calls for serious deliberation and a nuanced approach, be taken up for resolution in a politically charged atmosphere? Clearly, the Siddaramaiah government’s decision to support the claims of one section of the Lingayat community has to do with the impending assembly election. This, unfortunately, forecloses the possibility of a consensus emerging from within the community on rival claims to tradition. In its pursuit of political dividends, the Congress government in Karnataka has turned a theological debate into a political dispute that threatens to divide and polarise.

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