Rajnath plays down Yoga Day controversy; says participation voluntary
Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said there is no compulsion on doing yoga on International Yoga Day, thereby chosing to play down the All India Muslim Personal Law Board's (AIMPLB) decision to launch a nationwide campaign against making 'surya namaskar' and yoga compulsory in schools.india Updated: Jun 09, 2015 19:01 IST
Union home minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said there is no compulsion on doing yoga on the International Yoga Day and that its practice should not be related to any caste, creed or religion.
"On International Yoga Day on June 21, there is no compulsion for doing Yoga. Those who want can do it and those who do not want may not... But we appeal that maximum people should participate on Yoga Day," said Singh, who is on a two-day visit to Lucknow.
Asked about All India Muslim Personal Law Board's (AIMPLB) decision to launch a campaign against any move to make 'Surya Namaskar' and Yoga compulsory in schools, Singh said, "I do not think one should look at it from the narrow prism of caste or communalism. It is completely voluntary and now several Muslim countries, including our neighbour Bangladesh, too have started performing it."
The Union home minister will perform yoga in public in Lucknow, his constituency, on June 21. Along with Singh, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders as well as senior officers of the central paramilitary forces too would be seen doing yogic exercises.
Singh, while responding to a query if he has sent out invites to Muslim clerics and scholars to join him in doing yoga, said, "We are appealing to everyone to join. My team members would be sending out invites but then we are looking at universal participation in this."
During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Lucknow, some Muslim clerics had supported Singh but it is still unclear if they would be joining him on June 21.
The home minister's statement came on a day BJP legislator Yogi Adityanath stoked a controversy by saying that those opposing yoga and 'surya namaskar' should either leave India or drown themselves in the ocean.
The 42-year-old MP from Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur made the remarks while participating in a ceremony at a temple in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to media reports, he said surya namaskar is part of yoga, which purifies the mind, and "those who abstain from the Sun God should drown themselves in the ocean or live in a darkened room for the rest of their life".
The AIMPB had said on Sunday it will launch a nationwide campaign against making what it described as "Hindu religious practices" such as surya namaskar compulsory in educational institutions. It has also demanded that an order making 'surya namaskar' compulsory in schools should be cancelled.
"This cannot be forced as Muslims only worship Allah," said Abdul Rahim Qureishi, AIMPLB spokesperson.
The government has decided to drop surya namaskar from asanas to be performed across the country to commemorate International Yoga Day following opposition by Muslim organisations.
Prime Minister Modi will lead ministers and bureaucrats in performing asanas during a mega event to be held at the Capital Rajpath on June 21.