The international Yoga Day proposed by Prime Minister Modi and recognized by the UN General Assembly in December 2014, has been in the middle of a controversy ever since it was declared.
The first ever World Yoga day would be celebrated on June 21 in Rajpath, Delhi, with around 35, 000 people participating in the event and celebrating the day around 251 cities in 191 countries at the same time. The event marks the largest Yoga gathering ever held with the government applying for the Guinness World Records. The Prime Minister had called for a day dedicated to the celebration of yoga during his maiden address at the 69th UN General Assembly session in September last year. His proposal was passed by the UN within a record time of 75 days leading to the declaration of June 21 as International Yoga Day with 177 countries co-sponsoring the resolution. The growing interest and popularity of Yoga in the Western countries is yet another reason for the UN overwhelmingly accepting the resolution. Since then the government has been making plans to celebrate the Yoga Day. Modi will be a part of the gathering at the Indian capital and Foreign Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be present at the UN headquarters to commemorate the ‘historic’ event.
Yoga is part of India’s ancient tradition and is a popular practice across the world. It is known to boost the mental and physical wellbeing and to create a sense of harmony with self. But Modi government’s over enthusiasm in utilizing such an opportunity for promoting their cultural agenda is what has led to the controversy. The matter has raised concerns among the minorities who feels that imposing the so called “Hindu practices” were part of BJP and Sangh Parivar’s agenda and it conflicted with their religious beliefs. The government is planning to conduct the celebration utilizing government institutions, offices, schools and embassies. The minorities are also wary of Modi’s decision to make Yoga and ‘surya namaskar’ mandatory in schools.
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has come forward against the practice which is a set of poses commonly known as the ‘sun salutation’. Sushma Swaraj said that the minority bodies oppose the program due to the lack of knowledge on the matter. The foreign minister argued that 47 countries that are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) including Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Indoesia, co-sponsored India's resolution in the UN to declare an international day for yoga. Following repeated protests by the minority body, the government decided to exclude the ‘surya namaskar’ asana from the schedule which is appreciable. BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, who is known for his ‘hate speeches’, had remarked that those who opposed Yoga asanas should go to Pakistan or drown themselves in the sea. It is hence the responsibility of the government to curb such volatile remarks and actions from its Ministers.
The Personal Law Board hasn’t so far opposed the government plan. The government using all its means and resources to accomplish such an event has been drawing criticisms from all sides. The embassies too would utilize all their resources to focus on the event alone when it is conducted in foreign countries. Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that the event wasn’t compulsory and that nobody would be forced to perform Yoga on the day. Despite the assurances from the government, the minorities are still dubious about Modi’s push for the celebrations. The BJP and the Sangh Parivar outfits seem to isolate the minorities thereby aggravating communal polarization. The secularists and those who desire peace should be aware of such traps. The opposition of the minorities belonging to other faiths towards the apparent cultural invasion should be handled democratically. Enforcing the rites, customs and practices of a particular community over the whole of the nation is not justifiable. Its anti-democratic and a relevant issue to be discoursed about.