Practising Yoga sans politics
After the world responded enthusiastically to Intertiol Yoga Day, the politics in India has begun. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi finds issue with yoga because ‘it has been inextricably linked up with Modi politics’. He has also tweeted that he has other priorities which are ‘providing nutritious food, medical care, housing, sanitation, drinking water and employment opportunities’. Having endured the purposeless drift and iction in the 14 long years of Gogoi’s reign, surely the people of this State will find his claim laughable. Gogoi merely seems to be following the lead of the Congress top bosses accusing BJP of playing ‘divisive politics’ over Sunday’s mega yoga event. The controversy was stoked by BJP leader Ram Madhav questioning Vice President Hamid Ansari’s absence at the central Yoga Day event in New Delhi. The NCP got into the act by loudly speculating that the Vice president was probably not invited to the event because of his religion. This forced an embarrassed NDA government to clarify that with the Prime Minister himself being the chief guest in this event, it is against protocol to invite the President and Vice-President who are above the PM in precedence.
BSP supremo Mayawati then fuelled the controversy further by alleging that the BJP government has commulised the Yoga Day event in a bid to divert the people’s attention from its ‘failures’ during the last one year. As for the Left forces, they suspect yet another sinister design by the rendra Modi government to push its Hindutva agenda through a mega marketing exercise, aiming to bring about centralized uniformity in beliefs and practices in a country known for its diversity. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury sees in the mass mobilisation for yoga ‘a tactic similar to that adopted by dictators in the past’. But Yechury then put his foot in the mouth by commenting that ‘all yoga exercises can be noticed in the body movements made by a dog’. With allegations and counter-allegations flying thick and fast, another controversy has cropped up over the Modi government’s move to introduce Yoga education in all central government schools from classes VI to X. HRD minister Smriti Irani later clarified that the new discipline will not be ‘compulsory’ — with students given the option of choosing yoga from various physical education courses, and states the freedom to decide whether to adopt the course.
It was the United tions which declared last December that June 21 will be observed as the Intertiol Day of Yoga. This came about after the Indian Prime Minister proposed the idea during his first address to the UN General Assembly three months earlier. So did rendra Modi succeed in shrewdly manipulating the world body to become a worldwide medium for pushing India’s ‘growing soft power’? But then the question also arises whether the UN was gullible enough not to see through such a stratagem to ‘Hindu-ize’ India’s diversity and link yoga with tiolistic if not jingoistic pride. The truth is that Yoga may become a topic for rrow partisan politics in India, but much of the rest of the world sees it as a broad current of physical, mental and spiritual practises that promote healthy living. The UN proposal was co-sponsored by 177 of its 193 member tions, a record of sorts. Among those supporting, 47 were Muslim tions which saw nothing ‘anti-Islamic’ in observing a Yoga Day. In the US, thousands of yoga enthusiasts participated from the East to West coast, mass yoga practises were spontaneously organised in Washington DC, New York and major cities like Chicago, Houston and San Francisco. Similar unprecedented scenes were witnessed in European countries as well. After all, it was only after the West discovered Yoga several decades back that Indians began to realise their country had a gift for the world. Chi too has bestowed a gift like Tai Chi which other countries have adopted as their own. Many other societies and cultures have contributed thoughts and practices essential for good living. The huge genre of self-help literature is indicative of such a basic human need. Living with good mental and physical health should be a prerogative for every human being. Which set of practices to adopt is a matter of individual choice. Surely, religion or tiolity has nothing to do with it.