Thousands of people may be gearing up to bend and stretch on international yoga day on Sunday, but states ruled by the BJP’s rivals may not share the Prime Minister’s enthusiasm for the high-profile event because of political compulsions.
International Yoga Day is a part of Narendra Modi’s efforts to popularise the ancient Indian practice across the world, but states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have been lukewarm to the June 21 programme that critics have slammed as an effort to undermine India’s secular traditions.
Delhi’s outdoor yoga session has created the maximum buzz, with some 35,000 government employees, students and other citizens expected to roll out their yoga mats early morning on Raj Path, the city’s main boulevard near Rashtrapati Bhavan.
However, Kerala’s Congress-led government has made it clear it will not insist on any school or government official’s participation. The programme is not a priority for TMC-ruled West Bengal despite a newfound bonhomie between chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Modi. Schools run by the state government in Karnataka are also exempt from celebrating yoga day although colleges will be forced to fall in line with the central government's directive.
"Primary education is a state subject and we do not need to follow all directives of the central government. We are not making the celebration of Yoga Day compulsory. But those who want to celebrate it, can do so," primary education minister Kimmane Ratnakar told HT on Wednesday.
The Kerala education department said no one would be compelled to take part in the celebrations but school managements and parent-teacher associations could go ahead with their plans “if convenient”. However, government offices and schools under the Centre’s jurisdiction confirmed their participation. Congress ally Muslim League holds the education portfolio in the southern state.
“We have asked all employees to be present on Sunday with a yoga mat. Arrangements have been made at a nearby stadium,” a senior official of the general post office in Thiruvananthapuram said. Officials from Left-leaning trade unions, however, said they had no plans to “spoil” their holiday.
While the JD (U) government in poll-bound Bihar has not made participation mandatory for government school students, yoga guru Ramdev’s Patanjali Yogpeeth and other organisations aligned to the BJP have roped in young Muslim girls as trainers to bridge the religious gulf. “It will help send the message across about the impact of yoga and why people cutting across caste and creed should adopt it as a way of life to stay healthy,” said Ajit Kumar, national in-charge of the Yogpeeth.
Ramdev’s organisation -- in association with the Centre’s Nehru Yuva Kendra, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravishankar’s Art of Living foundation and other groups -- has set up a mega camp at the Moin-ul-Haq stadium in Patna where over 20,000 people are expected to participate.
Kreeda Bharati, the RSS’s sports front, has brought more than 16 organisations promoting yoga in West Bengal under a single banner for the celebrations, which will include a discourse on yoga and and demonstrations of various asanas.
Schools under the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) were asked to celebrate World Yoga Day, but Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK has made it optional for schools it runs to observe the event with no specific directives to government and private educational institutions that follow the state board.
Half-yearly exams in state-run and some private schools from June 22 have given the Congress government in Assam an alibi for not asking teachers and students to attend the celebrations in Guwahati.
chief minister Tarun Gogoi was non-committal about attending the show to be organised not far from his official residence, with union sports minister and state BJP leader Sarbananda Sonowal at the helm of affairs. “Yoga has been practised for hundreds of years now, for a healthy and productive life. But the present controversy has arisen because there is an element of compulsion mixed with religion and politics that is uncalled for,” Gogoi said.
Most schools and colleges are expected to remain closed on the day in Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh, where the state government has not issued any directives. “It’s an age-old practice and we aren’t opposing it. However, it should be voluntary and cannot be forced,” said chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.
In the Northeast, celebrations in Congress-ruled Manipur are expected to be confined to central government institutions and educational institutes within defence establishments while the response of the Congress governments in Meghalaya and Mizoram to the event has been lukewarm.
One exception is the Left Front government in Tripura that has decided to go with New Delhi’s push for the event. “The day will be observed across the state, and the main programme will be at Rabindra Bhavan (Agartala),” sports minister Sahid Choudhury said.
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