Jun 16: "That you can please some people sometime but can’t please all the people all the time" is evident from the opposition to International Yoga Day to be observed worldwide on June 21. When Narendra Modi government had appealed to the UNO to adopt June 21 every year as International Day of Yoga during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014, he had not expected that he would get such overwhelming support with 177 nations supporting the resolution. While the international community supported this move with a consensus resolution, our Prime Minister might not have expected to run into trouble in the home front. Some Muslim and Catholic leaders were vocal in their opposition to Yoga even as government machinery began to work overtime to make June 21 a memorable day and also to create Guinness record in the process.
While some Muslims are opposed to chanting of ‘OM’ and Suryanamaskar Catholic Bishops Conference of India have expressed their displeasure because June 21 this year comes on a Sunday which is considered ‘sacred’ for Catholics. This opposition is not confined just to India. Retired Lincoln Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz stirred up a debate last month when he wrote in the blog spot of a Florida based Catholic organisation saying "Catholics should steer clear of yoga because of its basis in Hinduism and to take up other methods of exercise and doesn’t place the faith in unnecessary danger".
Lot of debates and discussions have been held by various media on this issue after some groups openly criticized the move of the government to observe drills in schools on 21 as part of International Yoga Day. With opposition to Yoga day pouring in from various quarters Modi government responded positively saying participating in Yoga on 21 is not compulsory and has even axed Suryanamaskar for the yoga drill scheduled to be performed on 21 June. While government braved this opposition from minorities it is the political parties who are into a tug of war over the issue. The opposition is quick to turn guns on the Modi Government saying the government has given a religious colour to it. Of course some ruling party members also aggravated the controversy with their irresponsible statements like Swami Adithyanath who had the cheek to say ‘those who oppose Yoga should leave Hindustan’. Such statements only added fuel to the fire.
For the opposition this is quite a piquant issue in the sense that by UN declaring it as an international day Yoga has received a big push and pan global appeal to India’s age-old traditions and has brought India to the centre stage. It is sure to give a big fillip to India’s tourism and the government has already come out with some draft policy in this regard. Yoga has already created quite a buzz in the international arena and this is proved when 175 nations supported the resolution. Yoga is part of the health and fitness regime of people all over the world. Our big neighbour China has been a very vocal supporter of Yoga because Chinese people have taken to yoga in a big way. Yoga is a part of our great heritage and observing International Yoga Day is sure to make millions of people all over the world aware of the tenets of yoga.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar belittled the importance of Yoga day when he made that vituperative and personal comment against BJP President Amit Shah. Mayavati has now joined the bandwagon saying she supports International yoga day but is against BJP and its offshoots trying to play dirty game in the name of yoga. For the opposition it is quite a piquant situation because opposing it will prove dearer to them in the sense that it has brought international focus on India and is a matter of great pride for All Indians. Supporting it would be like giving the Modi government a shot in the arm.
It would be wise if political parties and self-styled religious leaders leave the decision in this regard to the individuals rather than whip up communal and religions sentiments to the celebrations. If 47 Muslim countries have supported the UN resolution it is a pity that some of our janus-faced leaders have tried to create controversy by giving a religious tone and colour to Yoga and observance of international yoga day as per UN resolution.
Instead of political parties and religious leaders taking a collective decision on behalf of the people it should be left to individuals to do what is good for them and for their health. Extensive research has been done on Yoga which has brought to the fore the scientific basis of yoga benefits. Yoga is now recognised as a therapy. People are smart enough to know what is good or bad to them or their children. The government has clearly said that practicing yoga is not compulsory on World Yoga Day. If people find yoga beneficial as a therapy and as a health and fitness regime why religious or political leaders should interfere and create a fracas?
Let yoga spread its fragrance throughout the length and breadth of the globe and prove to be a gift of Indians to the global community. At this juncture I would like to quote Russian Dy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov’s cool piece of advice to the US during the height of annexation of Crimea in April 2014, much before Modi government came to power. He had jocularly said "Americans should practice yoga and watch sitcoms in order to help them chill out". Though it is meant to be a jibe it is surely an endorsement of the benefits of yoga.