The Indian Army has thrown its full force behind the government’s efforts to observe International Yoga Day on June 21, with instructions being sent to the seven commands to ensure that all personnel participate in the event.
Letters sent to the six operational commands and one training command by the Delhi-based army headquarters referred to a recent meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and army chief Gen Dalbir Singh to discuss the 1.3 million-strong force’s participation in the event.
The letter received by the Jaipur-based South Western Command on Saturday said the army had decided to participate in the International Yoga Day with “full force” and that all personnel will have to take part.
The commands were asked to start preparations from June 15 and to identify yoga components to be included in demonstrations to be in their areas.
“Instructions have been received for participation of all army troops in the International Yoga Day and preparations for the same have started,” said Wing Commander Abhishek Matiman, the defence spokesperson in Jodhpur.
All personnel, barring those engaged in critical duties, will have to participate in yogic demonstrations, said Matiman.
A separate circular of the defence ministry, referring to directions issued by the defence secretary earlier this month, said “all the employees of MoD should participate” in the mass yoga demonstration scheduled to be held at Rajpath in New Delhi on June 21.
The yoga day is a pet project of Modi, who will lead ministers and bureaucrats in performing asanas during the mega event at Rajpath.
Keeping in mind opposition from the Muslim minority to certain aspects of oga day, the army is exercising caution while preparing for the day, sources said.
According to sources, the soldiers will practice some easy ‘asanas’ (postures) and ‘pranayam’ and there will not be an emphasis on ‘surya namaskar’, a set of 12 ‘asanas’ that is a salutation to the sun.
The All India Muslim Personal Board said on Sunday it will launch a nationwide campaign against making surya namaskar, which it described as a "Hindu religious practice", compulsory in educational institutions. Muslim leaders have said surya namaskar should not be made mandatory for all faiths.
“Minute details of what is to be practiced are being prepared at the command and unit levels,” said Matiman.
Referring to the controversy surrounding surya namaskar, a senior army officer in Jaipur said there are no divisions in the armed forces on religious lines.
“We all visit temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras in the units with equal ease. Let such controversies be reserved for politicians,” said the officer who did not want to be named.
Yoga is neither mandatory nor part of the routine training of the armed forces and the officer hinted that the help of specialist yoga trainers might be sought as part of the preparations for yoga day.
Rajasthan’s school education minister Vasudev Devnani said on Tuesday that opposition to surya namaskar is unwarranted. He claimed surya namaskar is practised even in some Muslim-majority countries. “When the moon is revered, why hate the sun?” he said.