The Karnataka High Court was on Monday told by the central government that the Lingayats were treated as Hindus since the first census in 1871 following which it disposed of pleas challenging the recommendations of a panel to grant religious minority status to the sect.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice S Sujatha disposed of the petitions, saying the case did not merit any consideration after the additional solicitor general submitted a copy of the Centre's letter to the Karnataka government in this regard.
The Karnataka government had written to the Centre on March 23 to grant separate religious minority status to the Lingayat sect with a copy of the panels recommendations.
However, the Ministry of Minority Affairs in its letter to the state government dated November 15 said, "The demand for separate religious status by Lingayat and Veerashaiva has been considered earlier also and it was observed that Lingayat has always been classified under Hindus ever since 1871 census, the first official census in India."
"Those scheduled caste members professing Veerashaiva Lingayat sect would be bereft of all the benefits given to them once they are provided separate religion code other than Hindus," it said.
The 'Jagatika Lingayat Mahasabha' secretary general SM Jamdar, who has been spearheading a movement to grant separate religious tag for Lingayats, vowed that he would fight for it at every forum till the objective was achieved.
"The Centre is misleading. The 1871 census report the Centre referred to for rejecting the proposal always treated Lingayats separate from Hindus," Mr Jamdar said.
The Lingayat sect was founded by 12th century social reformer Basaveshwara, whose belief revolved around social justice, benevolence and piety instead of orthodox rituals and castism prevailing during his time.