Now, Maharashtra Ligayats hit the streets for minority status
Mumbai,: Members of the Lingayat community have been holding protests across Maharashtra to press for the status of a minority religion ever since the Karnataka government made a similar recommendation to the Centre.According to the Akhil Bharatiya Lingayat Samanvay Samiti, one of the community bodies which is organising the protests, the community accounts for nearly 9 per cent of Maharashtra’s population. “We want the Maharashtra government to recommend minority status for Lingayats to the Centre just like the government of Karnataka,” says Sarlatai Patil, the convener of the Samiti.Leaders of the Lingayats say the community is present in substantial numbers in Western Maharashtra and the regions bordering Maharashtra and Karnataka. Over the past few weeks, members of the community have held protests at various district headquarters like Kolhapur and Nashik.Speakers at various rallies said, minority status for Lingayats would allow them to manage their own educational institutions and religious places.Prominent religious leaders, including 103-year-old Shivling Shivacharya Maharaj, have participated in earlier marches. Sarlatai Patil said they would soon convene a march in Mumbai to highlight the community’s demand.According to the Samiti, Lingayats in Maharashtra have been holding many agitations for the status of a separate religion and the Maharashtra government even recommended that the centre give it such a status.Maharashtra’s Minister for Minorities Vinod Tawde even told the state assembly that Central government in a letter dated May 2014 conveyed that Lingayats were Hindus and could not be considered as a separate religion.The minister also added that the 2011 census did not conduct any separate count of the community and hence the actual numbers of Lingayats in the state is not available.