BJP parliamentarian Yogi Adityanath waded into another potential controversy on Tuesday by saying that those opposing yoga and ‘surya namaskar’ should either leave India or drown themselves in the ocean.
The 42-year-old MP from Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh made the remarks while participating in a ceremony at a temple in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Speaking about the importance and history of yoga, Adityanath said those opposing the spiritual and physical discipline and surya namaskar – a set of 12 yoga ‘asanas’ (postures) that is a salutation to the sun – should “leave Hindustan”.
According to media reports, he said surya namaskar is part of yoga, which purifies the mind, and “those who abstain from the Sun God should drown themselves in the ocean or live in a darkened room for the rest of their life”.
Referring to opposition by Muslims to surya namaskar, Adityanath said more than 100 countries, including over 40 Muslim nations, are backing the International Yoga Day to be observed on June 21.
“When they have no problems with the day, why are Indian Muslims opposing it?” he was quoted as saying in media reports.
“Those trying to make the sun a communal issue should stay locked in homes in the dark,” he added.
According to reports, the government has decided to drop surya namaskar from asanas to be performed across the country to commemorate International Yoga Day following opposition by Muslim organisations.
Prime Minister Modi will lead ministers and bureaucrats in performing asanas during a mega event to be held at Delhi’s Rajpath on June 21. Yoga camps will be organised across the country.
The All India Muslim Personal Board said on Sunday it will launch a nationwide campaign against making what it described as "Hindu religious practices" such as surya namaskar compulsory in educational institutions. It has also demanded that an order making ‘surya namaskar’ compulsory in schools should be cancelled.
Yogi Adityanath is no stranger to controversy. Last year, he ran afoul of the Election Commission for a speech during a poll campaign in Uttar Pradesh that officials said was aimed at inciting communal tensions.