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Panchamasali Lingayats Demand Higher Share of Reservation in Karnataka

Panchamsalis want their share of reservation increased from 5% to 15% within the state OBC category.

Representational use only.Image Courtesy: The Print

Panchamasali Lingayats have stepped up demands for reservation benefits in the state of Karnataka. The group – led by seer Basava Jaya Mrityunjaya Swami – held a large rally in Belagavi on Thursday.

Panchamasali is a sub-caste within the Veerashaiva Lingayats, who are themselves a sect within the larger Lingayat fold. They want to be moved to the 2(a) category in the Karnataka OBC list. Presently, they fall under the 3(b) category.

The OBC reservation in Karnataka is divided into five categories, as follows:

1 - 4%

2(a) - 15%

2(b) - 4%

3(a) - 4%

3(b) - 5%

Apart from this, there is also a 15% reservation for the Scheduled Castes and 3% for the Scheduled Tribes. Together, the adds up to the 50% ceiling imposed by the Supreme Court.

It may be noted that all the Lingayat sub-sects that have OBC reservations are present in the 3(b) category. Apart from Panchamasali and Veerashaiva Lingayats, another 23 Lingayat sub-castes can be found in the 3(b) category.

The 2(a) category is presently made up of 102 occupational sub-castes. The induction of Panchamasalis/Veerashaiva Lingayats into this category would further skew the representation of backward castes in Karnataka. A report released earlier this year by the Justice Bhaktavatsala Commission found that 646 out of 802 backward castes have no political representation in the state. Lingayats and Vokkaligas have staked most of the claims to political power in Karnataka, it said.

Vokkaligas (Gowdas) fall under the 3(a) category. It was believed that these two communities (Lingayat and Vokkaliga) had the highest share of the population in Karnataka. However, there was an absence of empirical data to support the assertions. In 2015, the Congress government conducted a caste census to verify the community demographics of the state. This report was never made public.

Shivanand Swamy, 57, is an activist and trade union leader. He is also a Veerashaiva Lingayat. Speaking to NewsClick, he says, “The Panchamasalis are found in 4-5 districts of North Karnataka. They are primarily into agriculture. They are landholders. Many of them are traders. This community has also produced several religious gurus. They are a respected community that also has political representation. It would not be fair for them to get a larger share of the OBC reservation.”

In the run-up to the Assembly Elections in 2023, the Lingayat vote is important for all political parties in Karnataka. It is especially important to the BJP who have counted on Lingayats as their traditional base. Depending on whom you ask, Lingayats may be made up of up to 100 sub-castes. Swamy believes that Veerashaiva Lingayat sect itself has 63 sub-castes within it.

The Lingayat community is largely based in Karnataka, however, their populations are also present in Maharashtra, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

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