An Attempt to divide
The recent move by the Karnataka government to confer minority status on the Lingayats has been severely criticized, as an attempt to divide the Hindu community.
Who are the Lingayats and what is this idea of Minoritism?
Lingayat is a distinct Shaiva sect in India. Shaiva is one of the Shadmadam, which worships Shiva as the Supreme Divinity. Shad means 6 and Mada, meaning relating to mind, is etymologically similar to Mati, Mat, Maths, Mathematics. Ishtalinga is an oval shaped lingam which represents Shiva, and is worn around the neck.
Lingayats and Veera Shaiva
Another sect similar to Lingayats are the Veera Shaivas. Veera Shaivas are staunch devotees of Shiva and follow the Vedic tenets of living.
Around 12th century CE, revolting against the manner in which organization of society and rituals were then being practiced, Sri Basava, a statesman, philosopher, poet and social reformer, popularly known as Basavanna in the Kannada land instituted a new sect.
Basavanna rejected the Veda, the Vedic tenets and the then forms of worship to setup a new system based on a formless divinity symbolized by an oval shape called Ishta Linga worn around the neck itself. This system came to be called Lingayat, those who wear an Ishta Linga. The term Lingayat is derived from the word Lingavanta, which means “One who wears an Ishtalinga.”
Ishtalinga worn around neck
Many Veera Shaiva attracted by the teachings of Basavanna converted to become a Lingayat. Soon the states of Karnataka and Andhra saw an increase in the number of Lingayats.
Over time however, the distinction started blurring and Lingayat and Veera Shaiva were seen by others to be the same. The Veera Shaiva and Lingayats themselves too started believing it to be so, though deep down in the Lingayat sect, there was some amount of apprehension.
Demands by Lingayat community
In the last century, with more of the Lingayat literature being searched for and researched for a better understanding, this apprehension has given way to an affirmation that the Lingayats are different from Veera Shaiva.
This clarity, clubbed with the status that minority religions, i.e non-Hindus, enjoy in terms of benefits from the state, as well as the sway that minorities could hold on politics and Governance, sowed the seeds for the Lingayats wanting a minority status.
Their claim is that the teachings of Basavanna, that form the core of their Lingayat sect, were different from the Veda and the core of Hinduism, as is perceived. Hence they should be classified as non-Hindus.
There have therefore been demands by the leaders of the Lingayat community, in the past many decades to declare their sect as a different, non-Hindu and a minority religion.
Channappa Uttangi, a Christian Missionary who recorded the teachings of Lingayat Guru Basaveswara, was the 1st one who started a protest in 1940 to declare Lingayat as a separate religion. He preached that ‘Basava is the best Christian and Christ is the best Lingayat’.
The Lingayats’ argument is that they have a right to minority status being non-Hindus just like Muslims, Christians etc.
Political Parties are quick to note such a clamour, especially in the vicinity of elections.
A similar decision was taken in 2013, by the then Congress Government at the Centre, to declare Jains as a minority community, overruling the views of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
But wait, before a judgement is passed on this debate, there is one other aspect to the claim of the Lingayats, that needs to be understood.
We have understood how Lingayats are different from Veera Shaiva. But we have not examined if they qualify to be called non-Hindus.
For this though, we need to understand who is a Hindu?
Also, is whatever preached by Basavanna really different from what is contained in the Veda?
Ambedkar’s views on A Hindu
When our constitution was drafted by the Constituent Assembly, Dr. B R Ambedkar, one of the architects of the Indian Constitution, had made it clear that the term Hindu, includes all those who are not Christians, Muslims and Parsis.
Which means that, the term “Hindu” covered everybody, including Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Nature worshippers, Adi Vasis, Vana Vasis and even atheists.
i.e Veera Shaiva as well as Lingayats were Hindus, constitutionally.
Let us see how this came to be defined.
Ancient 6 religions of the land
From ancient times, Shadmada, 6 religions were practiced in India, namely
- Shaivam where Shiva and role played by Shiva is of focus, as without potential to manifest, matter and elements of matter, there is no Universe.
- Vaishnavam where Vishnu and role of Vishnu is given prominence, as without the all pervading forces none of this would have come and stayed together.
- Shaktam where energy is given prominence, as energy is an intrinsic aspect of everything.
- Sauram where Sun is given prominence as the sustainer of earth as well as life on earth.
- Ganapathyam where intellect is given prominence as without intellect, all of these are as good as non-existent. The focus is more on mankind and his capabilities.
- Kaumaram where beauty and design is given prominence as without this design and beauty, this Universe would not have evolved as it has.
Adi Shankara mentions about Shadmada about 2500 years ago.
More on Shadmada in our book and film, Creation – Srishti Vignana, since world over, the fundamental difference between religions, lies in their explanation of the process of Creation and hence definition and worship of God.
This word Hindu itself is of recent origin and did not exist in ancient India.
The Persians referred to the land to the East of the Sindhu River as Hind by interchanging S with H. The term Hindustan was coined to describe the Stan, the place or the area around the Sind, Hind, Indus River. The inhabitants of this area were called Hindustani.
Thus the term “Hind” was a geographical identity and not a religious identity to start with. But this word stuck and has been used collectively to denote the religions and sects that had their origin in India.
Ancient India had been practicing these 6 forms of “religion” based on the Veda, from time immemorial. Various religious leaders, Guru, Acharya, Mathas and Ashrama have risen in each of these 6 “religions” at various points in time.
These six, were largely similar and minutely different. People of these 6, along with other religions in India then, such as Buddhism, Jainism and other tribal sects, all of which had their origin in India, were all clubbed together as a single people called “Hinduan” by Isami, an Islamic Medieval Historian of 1350 CE.
Hinduans were Indians who were non-Islamic in religion according to him.
Prior to this, Isami cites how Indians in Persia and Arabia were called Hindian, irrespective of their religion.
So while “Hindian” was a geographical classification and included all from India, “Hinduan” was a 14th century, religious classification which included all non-Muslims of India.
This “Hinduan” made it easy for the British to extend the religious classification further in 1829 to “Hindu”, which stood for all non-Muslims and non-Christians.
The Constitution of India, while being framed, further cemented the term “Hindu” as that which refers to anybody who is not a Muslim, Christian or a Parsi.
Every other Indian is thus a Hindu.
Thus, if we look at it historically, the Hindu religion has an antiquity of a just about 190 years only, when the British coined the term “Hindu”.
Now, based on this, are Lingayats Hindus or non-Hindus?
More on the creation of the Hindu religion in our book “Breaking The Myths – vol 2, About Society” from the “Autobiography of India” series.
After independence, some Hindu sects had made attempts to get themselves a distinct minority status to gain freedom from the constant interference of the Government.
The Ramakrishna Mission in Kolkata, in the courts tried to classify themselves as minorities, but in 1995, the Supreme Court of India rejected their claims of being a separate religion.
In Tamil Land
Similarly, in the Tamil land, a sect of Shiva worshippers have a separate prayer to Shiva, who they claim is a Shiva different from the Shiva of the Vedic thought.
They have been speaking on this distinct identity of their Shiva for centuries and millennia, with their prayer call being, “Thennnattudaya shivanae pottree,” meaning “Praise be to the Shiva of the southern land”, who they differentiate from the Shiva of the Vedic system.
Congress created Hinduism
It was the Congress, which, during the freedom struggle, accepted an amalgamated concept of Hindu religion when one did not exist and supported the British law makers and the then court judgements, in making Hinduism a single religion for British administrative conveniences.
Later, through the Constituent Assembly and the Constitution, it thereby cemented and created this present body of Hindu religion.
Congress is Dividing Hinduism
Now, it is the same Congress party, 4 generations later, that is trying to make a piece meal and separate the Hindu religion bit by bit, for its local political conveniences.
Alas, the creation of Hindu religion and now its piece meal disintegration has become a handy tool in the hands of the Indian National Congress, for the last 6 generations.
Nature based Indic Thought
The Hindu ethos, which is the Indic thought, has survived irrespective of being classified as one religion or being disparate units. This is not because of political intervention and political play, but because of the cohesive ethos and the underlying fabric of the Indic thought, which is Nature based, scientific, ancient and as well current, to deal with the demands of time and progress.
A Nehruvian Blunder
In the garb of secularism, Minoritism was brought in by Jawaharlal Nehru. This was one of the blunders committed in a newly Independent India.
Jawahar Lal Nehru
Minoritism was a blunder created at the time of creating the Constitution. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar did not want it for the reason that it creates 2 classes of citizens.
Subsequent governments have not had the will, courage nor the mandate to undo it.
Because of this, India is the only country where people, instead of wanting to be in the majority want to be a minority. Unqeual Acts such as the Right to Education (RTE) have widened the divide and given unfair privileges to the minorities.
Opening a Pandora’s Box
It is the Indian National Congress (INC) that created the problem then and it is the subsequent generation of the INC that has reopened the Pandora’s box now and opened the floodgates for all.
If the Lingayats are given minority status, then every such local cult of Shiva followers can claim their status as minorities. Such local Shiva cult followers abound in every part of Bharata Desha, which will then lead to these followers of Shiva, also asking for minority status.
This in turn will lead to other components of Shadmada, mainly Vaishnavam, Shaktam, Ganapathyam, Kaumaram and Sauram too asking for minority status. This clamour will start spreading to Sikhs and Buddhists and to every other group in this land.
This idea of preservation of minorities started in the tumultuous period of Independence and the forced partition of India.
This has not only played havoc with the social fabric of India, but has also now led to each component, instead of being a cohesive unit, asking for their piece of cake by being included in minority provision.
This is bound to lead to a clash with the already existing set of minorities, as they will now have to start sharing their creamy benefits with more, leading to dilution of their privileges. This in turn could start a counter agitation by them, to retain their creamy exclusivity.
There are but a few daring options open in front of the government of India now.
3 Options to End 2 Classes Today
Option 1. Repeal the Minorities Act
This one stroke of action will remove once and for all, the majority and minority appeasement which has been a pain imposed on the Indian way of life, since independence.
Along with this step will have to be taken the following steps too
- Amendment of Articles 25 to 30
- Abolishment of the Ministry of Minority Affairs
3. Repealing of the NCM
4. Repealing of the NCMEI
5. Scrapping Majority/Minority Distinction in RTE
Option 2. Water Down Minoritism – Make Everyone a Minority
If one component of this amalgamated group is allowed to demand minority status and be granted the same, then the same option should be made open for each component to demand minority status.
In fact, ideally Gowdas, Vokkaligas, Vaishnavaites, Harijans, Chettiars, Nadars, Vanniars, Rajputs, Bhumihars, Yadavs, Mudaliyars, Kayasts, Namboodris, Nairs, Menons, Reddys et al, all qualify to be declared as non-Hindus and to be accorded minority status since
- they all too have distinctive, sectarian, religious Gurus for each of their sects like Basaveshwara for the Lingayats
- they are distinctive religious “denominations”
- they too have been classified as a “Hindu” without their concurrence.
Then all the components of Shadmada and the other smaller but equally vibrant components will come under minorities category.
The only way that a level playing field for all citizens of India can be brought about, is by shifting all individual communities making up the larger amalgamated group of majority, one by one as they demand or in one stroke, as a minority. This will eventually make all communities equal.
Then all will become minority and being minority will become a majority.
Such a reworking of a flawed logic is needed to get the Indic civilization back on an even keel, so that everyone has equal rights and duties of the land, civilization, knowledge, prosperity and progress.
But, a word of caution here!
This will result in more and more Indians in the country being classified as “Backward” even when the country is vying to be classified as a developed nation in the comity of nations.
Option 3. Redefine Hinduism – Make everyone Equal
Yet another, long lasting and bolder alternative would be to redefine Hinduism and the definition of the term “Hindu” based on the history of this term itself and how it has worked in the society, civilization and global religious dialogue in the last 190 years since its “inception” or shall we say, rather “misconception”.
The redefinition exercise should aim to make every citizen equal.
Marching Towards Equality
It is a crying shame that even 7 decades after Independence and equality enshrined in the constitution, Indians are vying with one another to move backwards in society rather than march forward as a major percentage of world population.
Let us all progress now, practicing our own, different, chosen religions, as equal citizens of Bharat Mata, in this new century, new millennium and new age India.
Let it become a land where peace, love and harmony form the religion of the Majority.