Lingayat Issue — why the political parties in the United States are NOT discussing whether Adventists are Christians or not

Rahul Gandhi, Vice-President of Congress party and probably the Prime Ministerial candidate from Congress in 2019, has recently traveled to the United States and met think tankis, lobbyists and billionaire activists associated with #IdeaOfIndia giants like Amartya Sen who are the brains behind a lot of lawmaking in India. Let us see how laws work in the land where #IdeaOfIndia stalwarts like Amartya Sen live (US/UK) and how laws work in India.

Adventists — are they Christians?

The United States is a Christian-majority country. There are different sects of Christians — Catholics, Mormons, Protestants etc., and the majority in the US are Protestants. There are sub-sects in Protestants — Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Adventists etc., There are sub-sub-sects in each sub-sect but let us limit our discussion to one sub-sect — Adventists.

There are doctrinal differences among the various sects/sub-sects/sub-sub-sects of Christianity. There are some differences that markedly separate Adventists from others — some Adventists observe vegetarianism and observe Sabbath on Saturday while most Christian sects observe Sabbath on Sunday and are not vegetarians (by doctrine).

Let us recall a non-serious incident that happened during the last Presidential elections in the US. During the Republican primaries in 2016, Donald Trump, a Presbyterian, made a remark in a rally about one of his rival candidates Ben Carson, a Seventh-Day Adventist. Trump said, “I’m Presbyterian. Boy, that’s down the middle of the road, folks, in all fairness. I mean, Seventh-day Adventist I don’t know about.” Trump effectively said Ben Carson was not a real Christian. When pressed for an apology, Trump claimed he did not say anything bad. It ended there. Full stop. No demand for a separate ‘non-Christian religion status’ and no demand for ‘minority status’. In the US, applicability of laws or religious rights or govt programs doesn’t depend on religion. There is no such demand from Adventists in the US because there are no articles in US Constitution like Article 29, Article 30 and Article 15(5) of the Indian Constitution.

Lingayats — are they Hindus?

Lingayats are Shiva-worshipping Hindus in Karnataka. Lingayats have mutts which are very active in Karnataka and run a good number of schools/colleges. Lingayats are categorized as Other Backward Classes(OBC) and have OBC reservations. There are hundreds of millions of non-Lingayat Hindus throughout India who worship Shiva. Let us say there are other doctrinal differences that show Lingayats as markedly different from other Hindus. Let us say, for the sake of discussion, Lingayats are not Hindus from a doctrinal point of view. As the indomitable Reality Check India says there is nothing that stops Lingayat mutts declaring themselves non-Hindu right now and go on about their lives. There is no Vatican-like structure for Hindus that punish “heretics”. So what are the Lingayat agitations then for? They want to be given minority status like what the Jains got in 2014. Some Lingayat leaders, egged on by the Congress party, want the Indian state to declare them a ‘minority religion’ to get the special benefits non-Hindus get under Article 29, Article 30 and Article 15(5) of Indian Constitution.

Special benefits if Lingayats are ‘declared non-Hindu’

There are many special benefits if you declare yourselves a non-Hindu and belong to a minority religion notified by Govt. of India. Currently there are six religions which enjoy this status — Muslim, Christian, Parsi, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain. Jains were given minority status in 2014 by UPA Govt after much lobbying. See the table in this piece to know what special benefits that minority religions enjoy that are denied to Hindus. Let us briefly enumerate some special benefits if you belong to a minority religion — per interpretations of Article 30 by Indian courts.

  1. Most laws related to education don’t apply to schools/colleges if the management belongs to a minority group. The disastrous central law Right To Education Act(RTE) does not apply to schools run by minorities. It applies to only schools run by Hindus. Under RTE, private schools run by Hindus don’t have autonomy to select students of their choice, have to set aside 25% seats for RTE lottery, have to wait for refunds from Govt for 25% of non-paying seats (Govt does not refund the full fee), have other stringent requirements like playgrounds and students-teacher ratio. The law does not apply if the school management belongs to minority. — RTE does not apply to Lingayat-run schools if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  2. Indian courts had earlier said Writ Petition against private educational institutions is maintainable. However, a writ petition against minority institutions is NOT maintainable as per a SC order. — Writ petition against a Lingayat-run schools/college is not maintainable if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  3. Govt can take over Hindu temples/mutts. But Govt cannot interfere if the religious place belongs to a minority religion. Govt manages temples but not Churches, Mosques etc., — Govt cannot take over Lingayat mutts if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  4. Govt can take over private schools run by Hindus. Govt cannot take over schools run by minorities. — Govt cannot take over private schools run by Lingayats if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  5. Private or aided schools run by minorities can get funds under IDMI scheme. There is no equivalent scheme for private schools run by Hindus. — Schools run by Lingayats can receive public funds for repairs, labs, expansion if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  6. A regional block where percentage of minorities is at least 25% get special funds under Multi-Sectoral Development Programme(MSDP). See sections 3.1, 3.2(i). — Regions where there are at least 25% Lingayats can receive special public funds for development if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  7. Scholarship per student is more for minorities than for Hindu OBCs or SC/ST — Lingayat students have a chance of getting higher amounts of scholarship from govt if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  8. Artisans belonging to minority religions can participate in minority-only artisan exhibition funded and facilitated by Govt. of India Hunaar Haat. — Lingayats can participate in the minority-only artisan exhibitions facilitated by Govt. of India if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.
  9. Courts interfere in Hindu festivals like Dahi Handi, Jallikattu. But courts allowed animal sacrifice even inside residential societies — saying it is the religious right of the minorities. — Courts cannot interfere in any festivals/rituals of Lingayats if they are declared a minority religion by the Indian state.

There are many more such special burdens if you are Hindu and special benefits if you are non-Hindu. We can go on and on about the sectarian nature of laws/schemes in India. This is the reason some Lingayat leaders are rushing to declare themselves non-Hindu and demanding the Indian state declare them a minority religion — to escape the burdens of being a Hindu in our current sectarian regime.

The role of Congress in sectarianism in India

Congress is an aggressively anti-Hindu party. It brought sectarian govt schemes like MSDP, IDMI. When the Supreme Court gave parity to Hindus in running private educational institutions, they amended the constitution using the 93rd amendment and inserted section 5 in Article 15 to take away rights from Hindus — enabling laws like RTE. Without the 93rd amendment, Hindus would have had the same rights in private education sector.

When Rahul Gandhi was touring the US — where Adventists and non-Adventists including Catholics, Jews, Muslims etc., have to follow the same law and there are no sectarian govt schemes — meeting activists, think tankis, lobbyists, policy makers, Congress leaders in Karnataka were egging on some Lingayat leaders to declare themselves non-Hindu. Anglo-American establishment media like The Economist, which endorsed Congress party in 2014 elections, even published a piece berating the evils of Hinduism and hiding key information like the benefits(some of which shown above) they get from minority status. Around the same time, official website of the Congress party published a piece on the same issue more or less saying the same what Economist said. Some excerpts from the piece:

The purpose of a revolution in a society is a necessity to wash hide-bound traditions laden with rituals, beliefs and superstitions. Revolution requires revisiting existing customs, practices and ideals in a community with the impetus for overall transformation of established norms. This is the way a society evolves by the progress of social, religious, economic and political ideals.
The only other transformation of society of this magnitude was Protestantism, established by Martin Luther in early 16th century which spread all over the globe.
The present-day call for constitutional recognition of a separate Lingayat religion is not new. The demand for this was first unanimously established by Akhila Bharatha Lingayat Mahasabha at a convention in Davanagere in 1941. Colouring this demand as “politically influenced” comes as a retaliation of political forces to undermine an old and a genuine issue of religious freedom.

Congress party is saying this is an issue of religious freedom but does not explain us how the religious freedom of Lingayats is being violated right now. Does someone have religious freedom only if the Indian state recognizes it as a separate religion? Is Congress saying only the six religions (Christian, Muslim, Parsi, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain) currently declared as minority by the Indian state have religious freedom? Is Congress admitting that Hindus don’t have religious freedom? And the only way for Hindus to get religious freedom is by declaring themselves non-Hindus and begging for minority status (and voting for Congress in exchange?). Endless splintering of Hinduism in exchange for minority status for specific groups and ‘religious freedom’ as propounded by Congress?

Is that the end goal? Splintering of Hinduism. Is this the ‘transformation’ that Congress party is seeking?

Going back to the Adventist question in the United States

The political parties in the US are not discussing whether Adventists are Christian or not. There would not be special benefits to Adventists if they declared themselves non-Christians. There is no constitutional recognition of religions and their statuses in the US. There are no articles like Article 29, 30, 15(5). Americans would laugh at you if you make such a proposition as ‘recognition of a separate Adventist religion’ — like Congress party does it on its website.

The state cannot decide whether the law(eg: RTE) applies or whether one gets special benefits based on religion. — True in the US. False in India.

Why only US? Such sectarian laws against the majority population of a country is not in place in any country in the world, except India.

It is for the this reason that some Lingayat leaders are asking for minority status. It is not about any differences in doctrine. Congress ideologues who live in the US — like Amartya Sen, Kaushik Basu —won’t ever talk about this sectarianism in Indian laws i.e, they support this sectarianism. They want the ‘transformation’ being sought by Congress and the billionaire activists.

Solution — get rid of sectarianism in Indian Constitution and laws

Congress party might continue to offer the minority status for various Hindu groups as a bargain chip for votes and make the various diverse Hindu groups — who cannot cope up with the sectarian laws — take the bait. In that process, various Hindu groups are made to turn on each other.

What is the solution for all this? Remove section 5 of Article 15(93rd amendment) inserted by UPA Govt and amend Article 30 and give equal rights to all religions. If these are done, it doesn’t matter if one declares oneself Hindu or non-Hindu.