The Centre announced on Monday yoga will be part of the curriculum in schools run by it, setting the stage for a potential face-off with critics who accuse the BJP of attempting to impose a Hindu agenda on the country.
Human resource development minister (HRD) Smriti Irani said the ancient Indian tradition will be introduced as a subject from class VI to X in all central government-run schools and 80 out of 100 marks will be reserved for practical exams where students will have to perform various asanas.
“Our aim behind this (bringing yoga as a subject) is that our children go to school happily. Therefore, our aim is to give a push to physical activities in schools,” the minister said while seeking to assuage fears of another examination for students already under pressure.
The move came a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi led tens of thousands of people who attempted complex postures on a sticky morning to celebrate the first International Day of Yoga in a bid to boost India’s cultural diplomacy abroad.
While reports that yoga will be a compulsory subject went viral on social media, Irani tweeted, “wrong headline”, in response to a newspaper’s post.
Sources said the attempt was to push yoga but the government didn’t want a controversy as some minority religious groups termed the promotion of the mind-body discipline as a ploy to whip up Hindu pride and marginalise millions of Muslims and Christians.
Irani released the syllabus and course material and maintained that states were free to modify the programme according to their needs, while government officials said the ministry is considering whether the subject can be introduced in schools from this academic session itself. Some of the books on yoga, prepared by NCERT, are still under print, they said.
A national-level competition will be organised in the Capital next year where the best performing student will get a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh, the minister announced.
The government’s decision came on a day the All India Muslim Personal Law board (AIMPLB) decided to include the yoga day programme in a proposed petition, which also objects to the introduction of the ancient form of exercise in schools, as it prepares to approach the Supreme Court.
“Yesterday’s progarmme with chanting of Om at a government-sponsored function was against secular ethos and against the spirit of the Constitution,” said AIMPLB member Zafaryab Jilani.
In its push to promote the ancient discipline, the Ayush ministry has also signed an agreement with Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogapeeth to conduct camps in more than 150 districts of the country, sources said.
Besides Ramdev, two other spiritual leaders Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Jaggi Vasudev have also been roped in to conduct camps in some other districts.
Ramdev, who runs a business empire with an annual turnover of more than Rs 1800 crores, will get a “handsome fee” for organising the yoga camps, the sources added.
Acharya Balkrishna, an associate of Ramdev, however, said the organisation’s association with the camps should not be seen from a “political angle”.