Even as political parties are debating over introducing yoga and surya namaskar in civic schools, it is already being practised for many years in these schools, said officials of the education department.
Mahesh Palkar, education officer, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), said that although not specifically under the ambit of yoga, students in the secondary sections are taught asanas or postures during the physical training course.
Palkar had also issued a circular to all civic schools around 10 days ago to conduct yoga sessions for 10 minutes every day during the morning assembly.
“It is a form of exercise being taught in schools for years. It is being given a religious hue now, but we issued the circular so that students will be energised before starting their classes,” he said.
The issue came into the limelight after the BJP-Sena passed a proposal in the general body to make yoga compulsory in all civic schools in the city despite staunch opposition from the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
According to Palkar, many schools organise surya namaskar competitions. “In one such competition, a Muslim girl had recently won the first prize in the Deonar Colony municipal school,” he said.
In civic schools, the half-hour-long morning assembly session is held before the lectures begin. During this session, students recite the national anthem and the pledge and sing a prayer song.
A teacher from the civic school in Kamathipura, who did not wish to be named, said that the teachers of the school were trained in yoga a few months ago. “We teach the asanas we learnt during our training to the students during the physical training period held once every week, which lasts an hour,” she said.
Rais Shaikh, an SP corporator, has written a letter to the municipal commissioner seeking clarification on the circular. He has also sought revocation of the circular. “Making it mandatory to practise yoga and surya namaskar in schools will be against the fundamental rights of an individual. Any such circular will encroach on the individual’s rights and freedom of religion,” he said in his letter.
The SP has demanded the suspension of the education officer. It has also called for a protest at Azad Maidan on Friday against the proposal. “Around 1,000 SP members are expected to join the protest,” he said.
“We will meet the governor and municipal commissioner to discuss the issue,” said Shaikh.
Civic chief Ajoy Mehta has said that the administration will examine the issue.