Lingayat community holds protest march, demands minority status | Mumbai news

Mumbai: Demanding a minority status and constitutional recognition as a religious community, the Lingayat community on Sunday staged a protest rally at the historic Azad Maidan. The protest was withdrawn following assurances from the state government.

The agitation comes in the run-up to the local body elections in Maharashtra to be held this year. The Lingayat Samanvay Samiti, an umbrella body of the community, organised the morcha to press for its demands. “We as Lingayats deserve minority status like other religions such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists,” said Avinash Bhosikar, national coordinator of the Samiti. “This will help in getting us reservations and concessions and raise our standard of living.”

Bhosikar, who also heads the Basava Brigade, another community outfit, said the Maharashtra government had acceded to their demands. Former minister Vinay Kore, who addressed the crowd, said that some of the demands came under the jurisdiction of the central government. “We will study them and decide how to take them further,” he said.

Among the litany of demands put forth by the Samiti, two entail public recognition of its leader, the saint and social reformer Mahatma Basaveshwar who rebelled against caste and ritualism. The community wants his statue to be installed on the premises of the Maharashtra legislature and also wants Miraj railway station to be renamed after him. It has also demanded a separate column for the Lingayat community in the national census.

The Lingayats have a sizable presence in parts of western Maharashtra and Marathwada, such as Solapur, Latur, Sangli and Kolhapur districts bordering Karnataka and Yavatmal and Washim in Vidarbha. In Maharashtra, the community is categorised under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) quota that gets 19 percent reservation in government jobs and education.

In March, 2018, the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka had granted the status of a separate religious minority to the Lingayat community in the state.

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