Muslim organisations have expressed reservations over Maharashtra government's order to celebrate International Yoga Day in schools, even as the BJP insisted the move was not linked to religion.
All India Majlis-e-Itehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday alleged that the Devendra Fadnavis government was forcing Muslims to take part in something that is prohibited in Islam.
"The government has no right to make yoga compulsory for children. While doing yoga, one needs to do surya-namaskar, which means you pray to the sun. The government needs to understand Muslims cannot pray to anybody except Allah.
"Secondly, it will be Ramzan that day. Why put people through unnecessary physical stress in our holy month?" Owaisi told PTI.
Jamiatul Ulema-e-Hind (Maharashtra) president Maulana Mustaqeem Azmi termed the move "dictatorial" and "impinging" on the rights of citizens.
The BJP hit back, with minister of state for minority affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, saying that International Yoga Day should not be linked with religion.
"Yoga is not bound by restrictions of religion, caste, area. Health is wealth and Yoga is the key to that. It should not be linked with religion. Whoever wants to take part they can, and people who don't want to, don't have to," Naqvi told ANI.
State education minister Vinod Tawde accused Owaisi of politicising the issue, and made it clear that not observing yoga day would not invite any punitive action.
"There are many positions in yoga besides surya-namaskar. The whole world agrees that yoga has tremendous effects on the body and mind. We have not made it compulsory for any educational institution to conduct yoga session on June 21," Tawde said.
The opposition Congress backed the concern of minority groups saying that such things should be left to individual choice.
"Why should you impose anything on a particular group. If a Muslim group or Christian or tribal group doesn't follow it then so be it. You can't impose it on them," Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said.
The state government had issued orders to schools to remain open on June 21, a Sunday, and make students participate in the International Yoga Day celebrations.
On the day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lead a mass demonstration of 15 yoga asanas by 45,000 school children, diplomats, army personnel and NCC cadets at Rajpath in Delhi. The event has already been registered as an entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.