Answer: The Panchamasali community, which is one of the most prominent sub-sects of Lingayat community, is heading for a virtual split over gurupeetha controversy.
There are over 90 lakh people from the Panchamasali community in the state and they have had no gurupeetha of their own so far. They have been following the Panchacharya – five swamijis of Balehonnur Math, Kashi Peetha, Kedara Peetha, Ujjaini Peetha and Sri Shila Math.
The Panchamasali people were disappointed when Panchacharyas approached the then Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee few years ago and submitted a memorandum to him appealing for inclusion of Jangama community (another Lingayat sub-caste) in the 2-A category to make them eligible for reservation.
Representatives of Panchamasali community asked the Panchacharyas why their community had not been included in the memorandum. When they did not get a convincing reply, they decided to set up a gurupeetha of their own and appoint a swamiji, who could ensure their welfare.
Now, the leaders of this community have purchased five acres of land on the Tungabhadra riverbed near Harihar, where they will set up their gurupeetha called Veerashaiva Panchamasali Gurupeetha. Bhavi Bettappa, Umpathi, Basavaraj Dindoor and Lokesh are playing a vital role in establishing this institution. Members of the community have nominated Siddalingeshwawa, a persom well-versed in religious matters, as their swamiji. A section of the community opposed to nomination of Siddalingeshwar as their swamiji decided to set up another Panchamasali Peeths at Kppdalasangama near Bijapur called Lingayata Panchamasali Hagadguru Gurupeetha and anoint Jayamruthyanjaya Swamiji of Veeraktha Math as their guru. Rebel group will set up their peetha at Koodalasangama and Jayamruthyanjaya Swamiji of Veeraktha Math Rebel will formally be made as religious head of new Peetha. This gurupeetha is backed by Prabhanna Hunisikatte, Nilakanth Assoli and other leaders.
"Panchamasali" sect amongst Veerashaiva religion is widespread in Southern India and is more concentrated in Karnataka state. The people of this sect are economically, socially, educationally and politically backward. Feeling of this backwardness and sufferings were felt by elders of the sect like Sri B.M. Hanamanala, Sri S.V. Negali, Sri Basalingappa Bhuthe and others who took initiative in the formation of 'Karnataka Veerashaiva Panxhanasali Sangha' bearing Reg. No. 432/1994-95 under leadership of founder president Sri. B.M. Hanamanal in September 1994. Since then, the said organization struggles to bring together Panchamasali Samaaj or sect, who are about 76 lakhs in Karnataka and 28 lakhs in other states who are widespread not only in Karnataka but also in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh & Tamil Nadu states, majority of whom are living in rural areas as agriculturists and agricultural labourers in a poor and backward condition, under one banner by forming Zilla Ghatakas, Taluka Ghatakas & Grama Ghatakas.
In the year 2005, entire Panchamasali Samaajpeople and above mentioned organization felt it necessary to have their own Jagadguru to lead and guide them religiously, culturally, socially, educationally and economically. Thus, on 18.02.2008, said organization and Panchamasali Samaaj
Established 'Veerashaiva Lingayath Panchamasali Jagadguru Peetha- 2008' which is based on 'Veerashaiva Aithihaska Parampare, Samskruthika Hinnele, Vaiuchariks Nelegattina Thathvika Talahadi Hagu Siddhanta Adarisida Guru Viraktara Tathva Melaisida Jagatika Pra-prathama "Veerashaiva Lingayath Panchamasali Jagadguru Peetha- 2008".
In a move that gains confidence in the light of Lok Sabha election, 19 sub-sects of Lingayat community have been added to list of Backward Classes in Karnataka. They will be added to 3-B category, which is eligible for a 5% reservation.
With this inclusion, nearly entire Lingayat community now comes under Backward Classes list, including more powerful sects within it like Veerashaiva Banajiga, Veerashaiva Aradhya, Veerashaiva Reddy, Veerashaiva Sadara and Veerashaiva Panchamasali. 3-B category includes 23 sub-sects of the community and now the number has gone up to 42.
Four Chief Ministers of Karnataka in the past: S.R. Kanthi, S. Nijalingappa, Veerendra Patil and J.H. Patel belonged to Veerashaiva Banajiga community, which is now available for reservation.
Chief Minister B.S.Yeddyurappa belongs to Veerashaiva Ganiga sub-sect, which is among 19 sub-sects added to list of backward classes.
Inclusion of these 19 sub-sects in the list was one of the 34 recommendations made by former Backward Classes Commission Chairperson, S. Siddalingah, in 2005.
But, only one of these recommendations, which is on inclusion of sub-sects, has been chosen for implementation by Government, while other 33 have been left untouched.