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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 29 New Delhi July 11, 2015

RSS Brand of Yoga on Display on June 21

Saturday 11 July 2015, by Humra Quraishi


Yoga is a great form of exercise. So is walking, swimming, jogging and even classical dancing. Can the government make all these compulsory in our daily lives schools, colleges or offices?

 Don’t compel, don’t utter compulsory, for the minute you do so you are destroying and denting the very concept of acceptance.

Let yoga stand out in its natural form, with all its hues intact. Don’t thrust and force it on the hapless masses. Don’t use it as a means to divide and distract. Sadly, this is exactly what the government tried doing last Sunday (June 21). Overnight the very word yoga has been caught in controversy, in this battle between theirs and ours.

There has been a complete insensitivity to the date and timing of holding this ‘Yoga show’. Several Christian groups appealed to people not to participate in it since Sunday is Sabbath or a day of rest. Christians see a pattern in this; after all, didn’t this Modi-led government decide to observe the so-called ‘Good Governance Day’ on December 25—the day when Christmas is celebrated the world over. And on this June 21, Church bodies of the North-Eastern States opposed the International Yoga Day... The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) expressed dismay at the State’s Department of School Education asking all schools to observe the event. “It is unfortunate that such events are being observed on Sundays. Enforcement would be tantamount to violation of religious freedom as envisaged in the Constitution. Despite the practice of yoga being projected as secular, it is deep-rooted in religious beliefs and the practices of Hinduism.”

The Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitute Committee (MKHC), an apex body of 15 major churches of the State, opposed the Yoga Day. MKHC secretary Reverend R. Lalrinsanga pointed out: “Sunday is a holy day for Christians. The government’s decision to celebrate Yoga Day on Sunday has hurt us. We appeal to the Christian community not to participate in the celebrations,”

 And where the Muslim community is concerned, the holy month of Ramadan has just begun and for those who observe ‘rozas’ it is difficult to exercise early morning... Together with this, why should you force a Muslim to do yoga! Why? Yes, there has been a direct or indirect bullying on... ongoing. On television debates, you get politically slanted characters who declare that Surya Namaskars and chanting of ‘Om’ will be fine for Muslims. No, this is factually incorrect... as Muslims will be uncomfortable doing so. In fact, a great majority of Muslims are extremely wary of this govern-ment’s moves and feel threatened of getting robbed of their cultural and religious practices. They do realise that this is an RSS move to strip them of their identity.

Going beyond, can you force an average citizen of the country—tinkers, tailors, tillers, daily wagers, dying farmers, to do yoga? Can you force the hungry to start their day doing a this or that asana? Can you force languishing forms to exercise in a this or that way? Also, isn’t Yoga a way of life... one has to follow a certain yogic lifestyle and then move towards spirituality? After all, spirituality cannot be thrust on one self or flung about here and there. How can the tainted be brand ambassadors of yoga: flying to foreign lands to cut deals and in between it all promoting yoga? How can spirituality be promoted or exported in bulk!

Sadly, the television cameras focused only on the Yoga doers that Sunday morning, more so if it happened to be a who’s who... I know many who are well into Yoga but did not participate in that mass event/show as it carried political slants of the Hindutva brigades. Let me write what Professor V.K. Tripathi—he was heading the Physics Department of the IIT, Delhi till he retired a couple of years back—had to say: ”Yoga is not merely a physical exercise to keep body flexible and healthy and mind alert. Its soul lies in controlling self-righteousness and arrogance. The muscle power and intellect power, in the absence of the latter, are merely the instruments of exploitation and oppression. Gandhi, taking a cue from the masses, added the element of voluntary productive labour in his truly yogic way of life. Spinning on charkha (spinning wheel), working in kitchen and lifting the human waste brought him in unison with the Daridranarayana and emerged as the lifeline of non-violent struggle (satyagraha) against imperialism.

“Masses do not require the physical exercises, miscalled yoga, to keep their bodies healthy and mind relaxed. Their very life is yogic, free from vanity and self-righteousness. Productive labour is not only the lifeline of society but an instru-ment of sensitivity, compassion and cooperation.

“The yoga RSS and its gurus like Baba Ramdev preach and practice is a glamorous physical exercise that appeals to the self-seeking middle class and elite. It has no element to liberate them from prejudice, to help them see beyond the self and realise the ferocity of injustice and exploitation meted out to the masses. Baba Ramdev has much expertise on yogic exercises but little to offer for the liberation of mind from prejudice and partisan politics. He hosted in his Patanjali Yoga Peeth the conclave of the RSS to launch a campaign against Hemant Karkare when he began unearthing the terrorist activities of like-minded organisations.

“The entire exercise on June 21 was meant to glamorise the RSS brand of yoga. It may pretend to invite people of all religious shades but religious hatred and religious self-righteousness are the core elements of all RSS activities, be it Ram temple, cow or anything else. It is for this reason not only minorities but all liberal and sane people are apprehensive of this demons-trative exercise. It is grossly unfair to issue dictates on the government employees and institutions to participate in this demonstrative exercise....”

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