For the past one month or so the media establishment in India have been running a campaign of deception, outright lies, and obfuscation around the issue of the Lingayat community in Karnataka all the while drumming up a crisis situation. This orchestrated campaign is a lead-in to a flashpoint demonstration planned on Nov 5 2017.
In short : The Lingayat community through their leaders have expressed a demand to be classified as a Minority religion separate from the Hindus. To an uninformed person, that demand in itself is kind of super wacky. Why on earth would they want a Govt certification of their status? Normally in a vibrant democracy you would expect the hordes of mainstream media outlets, eminent jurists, thinktanks, and social intellectuals to tear into the “whys and whats” of this inexplicable absurd demand. Nothing of that sort will happen in the Indian intellectual circuit. That is because they might be accomplices in hiding a “Pumpkin under the rice” (Tamil proverb).
The media have focused on the doctrinal issues especially around how Lingayat is different, even better, than the other Hinduism. Notably, The Economist has joined the chorus with its supportive piece “Medieval poet bedevils India’s most powerful political party”.
Luckily the nascent #Core movement is forever alert to these shenanigans.
The Lingayat protest is not driven by doctrinal differences but merely as a response to the most ludicrous legal regime currently in force in any part of the world.
To start off – we have two excellent commentaries that looks under the hood. The first is by the prolific Hariprasad N @pranasutra “Why are Lingayats in Karnataka demanding a minority religion status” the second piece is by Medium writer @IOI who wonders “Why American political parties are not caught up with establishing Adventists as Christians or not”
I am not going to repeat the points made in those posts, but open up the following Five questions
1 Separate religious identity marker test
Lets first examine this claim. The Lingayat movement is about a nuanced religious doctrinal conflict of Basawesharas rebellion against Agamas, Vedic, Sanatanic strictures and pro social justice etc. (See this explanatory piece “Explained: The Lingayat claim for separate religion” by The Hindu)
If that were all there is to it, Lingayatism doesnt need a gazette notification but can cleave from Hinduism by a natural process. There is no Hindu pope who is going to prevent them from separating, nor will there be any institutional retaliation. All they need is to develop an inside / outside view with Hindus and build higher walls and deeper moats. They can use unique types of food, perfumes, practices that appear strange to Hindus, mutilations, naming babies in certain way, controlling intercourse with Hindus, and so on. Most importantly they can use their institutions for labeling and access control. They can start by installing notice boards in their mutts, or movies and booklets and films emphasizing the schism, and to censure and expel those who interact or adopt Hindu symbols. This is the natural process. They do not do any of these things, but insist ONLY on Central Govt notification (a mere piece of paper) that amends the National Commission of Minorities Act 1992 and adds them as the 7th religious minority in India.
This means the doctrinal distance is not central to the debate at all, but it is a gazette notification is what is being sought. So the practical minded person need not engage with Basavanna or Sanatana at all. That brings us to the next four questions.
2 Is Art 30 a sword or a shield
Article 30 happens to be the primary distortion in India because it uses state force to shape which groups are allowed how much institutional control. This has dramatic and permanent impact on generations. Only those groups with institutional control get to propagate and reproduce their culture. To qualify this further, why I say “institution control” I mean to the extent every group has it.
There are two ways to look at Art 30, a shield : essentially a guarantee to minorities over and above Art 14 and 19 that specifically protects their educational institutions. The other way is, a sword where these minority guarantees are denied to Hindus and the minorities use this advantage to turn outward based or implement outreach agenda. The objective is then changed to educate outsiders rather than their own communities. The critical question “Are there any indicia or purpose for this minority status” is never asked.
Lingayats today run hundreds of education institutions. Ironically, this is the best argument for abolition of Art 30 (the sword interpretation). If you argue that Lingayat have been unfairly denied minority status for 40 years, then it follows that they have managed to roll out such large education network without minority status. So the only reason they want the minority status today is to protect from the “sword” interpretation.
Core1 is a strong and fundamental distortion. If you do not remove it, it can give rise to spin-off strategic games that will be hard to decipher. One strategy could be to select groups to be groomed for eventual split by allowing them to roll out big institutions and then once they are leveraged in that manner, they will need the “sword protection” and themselves cry to be called minority.
3 The 93rd Constitution amendment is open ended hence the urgency of Lingayat
If you are a Lingayat leader , the 93rd Constitutional Amendment is a terrifying reality. You will never hear the mainstream media or eminent jurists talk about this. Here is the problem. Art 15(5) introduced by the 93rd Amendment is an Open Ended confiscation of institutional control with baked in exemption for minority.
By “open ended” I mean : Any Hindu run institution can be taken over to any percent along any social justice axes in any aspect of management. The 93rd Amendment today is an enabling amendment for the notorious Right to Education Act but there is nothing in Art 15(5) that restricts it to RTE, school edu, or 25%, or for SC/ST, for teachers or students, or any other group.
The Lingayat community is philanthropically minded and is therefore highly leveraged in Edu sector. If no one will repeal these laws, or even talk about them, or even engage those like #core movement who do talk about them, then the path for them is clear. The only way to save yourself is to break off and gain immunity from this tyrannical law. The reward is a safe harbor with total and permanent autonomy guaranteed constitutionally. The ungainly sight of begging for minority status will be forgotten once this group too like the Jains before them, are protected from the Art 30 “Sword”.
4 Different or better
A very amusing aspect of this minority status should be noted. When groups like Jains, Brahmo have tried to get Minority status they not only have to declare them as different from the Hindus but better-different. No community has said “Give us minority status because we have this unique XYZ feature which is hardcore and worse as per your yardstick compared to what the remaining Hindus have.
This leads to the following conclusion. To claim institutional control rights, a group ready to be claim as schismatic have to assert that they are different and better than Hindus as per the rules of Idea of India. It then follows that Hindus will never be given institutional control rights only because they are Hindus and for no other reason. This is the exact definition of multi nationalism as the Supreme Court noted in the Bal Patil (Jain) case. One wonder why the Sangh which calls itself nationalist lets this multi-national basic jurisprudence go unchallenged.
Finally, the claim that Lingayat or Jain or Brahmo or anyone else do not recognize caste is meaningless. Because if you stage caste as a separate unit , then within the unit, by definition there can be no caste. For example, the Iyer or Gounder religion also reject caste since they just marry and conduct affairs within their own religion.
5 How to pull the rug and completely change the landscape
As shown in this article, this entire movement turns on the primary anomaly in India. The denial of institutional control mechanisms to Hindu at par with non Hindus. It is not correct to blame Lingayats for doing whatever is necessary to save themselves from the sword. The correct approach , if we are truly sovereign, is to surgically remove the primary anomaly as below
Repeal the 93rd Constitutional Amendment and announce that henceforth Article 30 will only be interpreted as a shield. If necessary amend Article 30 to bake that in as well. You just have to announce that you plan to do these things.
The Economist mocks the government as “medieval poet bedevils BJP” – this is both true and false. If you do not remove the primary anomaly, the issue impacting 17% of Karnataka can overwhelm you. The question will be eventually framed as a Rule of Law 101 (Uniform Applicability) “If Jains can have it , why cant we” ?
Everyone knows you cant answer Rule of Law questions in Idea of India system.