As you are aware, we have gathered here for the purpose of demanding separate religion status for Lingayat. This is the 4th rally in the last two months for this purpose. There is a huge difference between this and the earlier 3 rallies. And I would like to point out the same here:
It is important to note that there has been a lot of opposition, obstacles and false propaganda against holding this rally. Chiefs of many Matt-s (religious institutions) have threatened to boycott us if we took part in this rally. Yet, many went door-to-door trying to mobilize people to participate in this rally. And a few others – around 100-150 – took out a street procession to the Deputy Commissioner’s office and demanded them to prevent the rally from happening. When I see lakhs and lakhs of you assemble here today, it shows you have not paid heed to all their cunning efforts. Your presence here in such large numbers is a testament to the faith you have in this religion.
In such a rally, there are a few important points I have to make. This struggle is NOT against any other religion. It is NOT a struggle against any specific caste or subcaste. It is NOT a fight against any political party. This is a historic struggle for equality in the society, for the progress and unity of the society. This is a unique struggle happening after over 900 years after Basavanna, in basava-bhUmi, this land of Basava.
As part of this struggle, we are having to answer 4-5 questions raised at the national level.
- “You are asking a separate religion status for Lingayat. If that is so, how are you different from all the other religions existing in this country ? In what ways are you unique?” This is a serious one.
- “Which is your religion ?” This is something we have to reflect on ourselves, too. What is your religion? Pay attention: This is not a simple question.. Who is who? You who believe and follow Basavanna are claiming you are Lingayat. At the same time, in the other parts of the state, there are voices that are claiming those who follow “pancha peeTa” (the 5 religious institutions) are ‘veerashaiva’-s.
- “If you ask a buddhist what their religion is, they will reply it is Buddhist religion. A Sikh will reply Sikh religion, a Jain will reply Jain religion. However if you ask a Lingayat, what their religion is, one receives 3 answers– (1) Lingayat, (2) Veerashaiva; and (3) Veerashaiva Lingayat”. It is important we reflect on why this has happened so. And when questioned which religion we belong to, then, like the Jains, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians – we have to in unison reply “Lingayat”. Only “Lingayat”. And when saying so, there should not be any ambiguity amidst us. I am not going to elaborate on why this ambiguity exists amidst us right now, but would like to specify a few points. This struggle is reaching very sensitive levels. Even though we say this struggle is not against anyone, there are a differences in opinions to be seen right among ourselves. In this context, I ask you a few questions:
- Who is the founder of our religion? “Basavanna”. This is your voice. But if you ask the panchAcharya-s (heads of the 5 mutts), they will reply, we are followers of the 5 mutts, founded by its leaders.
- When was your religion founded? “12th Century”. However, they will reply it is a very ancient religion, founded thousands of years ago!
- Which is your religious book? “Vachana Sahitya”. They will say it is Siddhanta Shikhamani*..
- What is the basis of your religious book? Listen carefully. We say it is the lived experiences and realities of the Sharana-s. A very scientific attitude is its basis. What do the panchpeetas say ? They say none of these.. Instead, vedas and upanishads, the aagama-s are the basis.
I say that so long as such conflicting responses to these questions exist within ourselves, it will not help our cause of achieving a separate religion status. If we are ourselves not unanimous then how will we answer and convince people at national level and legal experts to claim our rights through constitutional means. This is the question in front of us, the entire Lingayat community across all states. Only you have the ability to answer this question.
- What are the core tenets of your religion? Even here we hear differing opinions. Lingayats say Equality is the core tenet of our religion. Equality between genders, Equality between humans. On the contrary, panchAcharya-s say: What equality ? Your servitude to carry our palanquin – this slavery – is our core tenet.