Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje on Friday defended her government’s controversial decision to make Surya Namaskar mandatory in schools, saying it was not linked to Hindutva ideology but only aimed at improving children’s health.
The directive by the BJP government has drawn criticism from minority organisations which see the ancient yogic exercise of sun salutation as an extension of the ruling party’s agenda to promote Hindu beliefs and practices.
“When we spoke of introducing Surya Namaskar in schools, people said we have started talking about Hindutva. (But) if a child in school does breathing exercise for five minutes, Surya Namaskar for five minutes and meditation for five minutes then the child would study with a clear mind,” Raje said while inaugurating the National Arogya Mela here.
She also wondered “why people can’t accept” what is essentially an “overall exercise of the body…associated with the health of children.”
The ‘mela’ is being organised to promote traditional Indian healing methods which the BJP government is hard-selling as AYUSH — ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy — to make the state a destination for medical tourism.
“The government of India is in process of preparing a health policy and would notify the same very soon with special focus and relevance to the AYUSH systems,” said Shripad Naik, Union minister of state for health and family welfare.
In line with the BJP-led NDA government’s policies, the Raje government too has been actively promoting traditional healthcare and yoga as an alternative to western methods and lifestyle.
However, a BJP MLA from the minority community too has expressed concern over making surya namaskar mandatory in schools and asked Raje to reconsider the decision.
On February 3, the director of school education had sent out an official order asking all government and private schools to introduce surya namaskar in all secondary and senior secondary schools with immediate effect.
On Friday, a minority youth organisation — the Popular Front of India — organised a protest rally in Bhilwara, over 250 km from the capital.
Association president Abdul Salam said the government’s order was “divisive” and it “threatened the secular credentials of India”.