The Congress decision to grant ‘minority religion’ status to Lingayat community in Karnataka has predictably kicked off similar demands from the Kodavas and is likely to reverberate throughout Hindu society in Bharat.
Until now we have seen identity politics played by the so-called secular front along caste-minority-regional axes, but a dangerous new fault-line has been manufactured in the last decade which has incentivized the disassociation of communities within the Hindu fold and a hankering for the elusive ‘minority’ tag.
In this interview with Dr. Amit Thadani, a surgeon and perceptive commentator on socio-political issues who has done deep research on the minority-majority conundrum unique to Bharat, we try to understand the background of the Lingayat demand, why the ‘minority’ tag is now so sought after, and what is the way forward if Bharat has to survive this latest onslaught by the #IdeaOfIndia gang (also known as #BreakingIndia forces).
Note: The interview was conducted largely in Hindi in an attempt to carry this important message to a larger population; you can scroll below a transcript for the key highlights in English –
Key highlights from this interview –
- Lingayats are followers of Basava (also known as Basavanna or Basaveshwara), a Brahmin who rejected traditional Vedic teachings of the time and was a proponent of Niraakaara Shiva-focussed Bhakti movement – he believed we only need to worship our Ishta Deva i.e. Shiva and don’t need any external murtis, and hence his followers carry a small Shivling at all times.
- The demand for a separate Lingayat identity emerged around 100 years back – a 3rd generation Christian Lingayat Channappa D. Uttangi who received Church training started the process of trying to break off the Lingayats.
- If we accept that Shiv-bhakts like Lingayats are not Hindus, then are you saying Shiva is not a Hindu God?
- Today, many communities are hankering for minority tag because our Constitutional provisions for minorities have been distorted. The majority community has been systematically under-priviliged compared to minorities. If these minority benefits are removed, the mad rush to become ‘minority’ will end.
- One of the major benefits enjoyed today by minorities is the autonomy to run their own educational institutions. This benefit accrues from the way Article 30 of Constitution is interpreted, even though an SC judgement from 1974 said “The whole object of conferring the right on minorities under Article 30 is to ensure that there will be equality between the majority and the minority”)
- Ministry of Minority Affairs (MoMA) was established in 2006 under UPA-1. This ministry has accelerated the project of separate budgetary allocation for minorities for infrastructure development, education scholarships, skill development etc. MoMA Budget was Rs. 4195.48 crore for 2017-18 (jump of 9.6% from last year). Many states like Telangana, AP, Karnataka etc. have taken this divisive agenda forward with ever-increasing budgets exclusively for minorities.
- Under MoMA, a program called MSDP (Multi Sectoral Development Program) was initiated in 2008-09 based on Sachar Committee Report – initially it was applicable to 90 Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs) where minority population was more than 25%, but now Minority Concentration Blocks/Towns/Cluster of Villages have been made unit of planning for implementation – scheme is being implemented in 710 Minority Concentration Blocks and 66 Minority Concentration Towns. So in a way, MSDP has incentivized growth of minority population in districts, blocks, towns.
- Hindus do not get any additional benefits despite being a minority in 7 states and 1 UT. SC has explicitly stated that minority status should be determined at the level of State – despite this, Hindus do not get any minority rights in states where they are in a minority. For eg., MoMA clearly sates that in case of 6 States/UT (Lakshadweep, Punjab, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Jammu & Kashmir), where a minority community is in majority, a lower cut-off of 15% of minority population, other than that of the minority community in majority in that State/UT, has been adopted for making a block eligible for MsDP benefits. What this means is that if a block has 15% Christians in J&K, it gets MsDP grants, but a block having 25% Hindus will not get that grant because Hindus are not classified as a national ‘minority’ even though they are a minority in J&K!
- After SC had ruled that minority educational institutions do not have special privilege over majority run institutes, UPA-1 passed the 93rd amendment to add Article 15(5) which restored the advantage for minority educational institutions. Subsequently they introduced the RTE Act which applies a host of regulations only for Hindu-run schools – this is leading to many budget schools shutting down and leading to a spurt in minority-run schools. This is a big incentive for the Lingayat community, which runs several educational institutions, to seek the minority tag.
- What is happening today is a clear distortion of what Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the architect of our Constitution, had stated in 1948 – “It is wrong for the majority to deny the existence of minorities. It is equally wrong for the minorities to perpetuate themselves. A solution must be found which will serve a double purpose. It must recognise the existence of the minorities to start with. It must also be such that it will enable majorities and minorities to merge someday into one.”
- The only way to come out of this legal web of distortions and perverse incentives is to go for uniformity of law i.e. “One country, one law”. The more divisions we create, the country is headed for another partition. Hindus do not ask for superiority, but at least give us a level playing field.
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