Yoga Day: Outlandish interpretation

IT is a matter of great pride for India that International Yoga Day is being adopted across the globe as one milestone marker of wellness. The celebration is an endorsement of yoga's universal acceptance and appeal. Endorsed by 175 member states, on December 11, 2014, the UN backed by an overwhelming response proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga and had global powers like the USA, Canada and China co-sponsoring the resolution. Prime Narendra Modi deserves to be credited for the benefits of Yoga gradually generating global popularity and acceptance as it was at his initiative and behest that the International World Yoga Day is being celebrated in many nations, including Muslim countries. To keep up the momentum, the Union government has even set up a separate ministry for yoga called Ayush, under the tourism ministry. Yoga, which traces its roots to ancient Indian texts, has been a very popular form of exercise which is mainly a combination of breathing techniques and flexibility. Though it’s been a common exercise for many Indians, yoga’s reach has now transcended religious and linguistic boundaries, primarily due to the UN recognition. The BJP-led NDA regime’s determination to further promote popularity and refine the true essence of Yoga could be comprehended from the government according importance to the Yoga Day in the same way India celebrates Republic Day. The debut year of the International Day of Yoga had seen the government asking offices and schools to hold yoga sessions in the morning to mark the day. The main event organised in New Delhi and inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi at the national capital’s landmark India Gate saw an unprecedented turn-out of experienced yoga practitioners as well as novices while Indian embassies all over the world hosted Yoga Day related activities and deliberations.

Regardless of India getting its rare moment to cherish at the global level when UN adopted Yoga Day, such notable achievement continues to come under the scanners of non-BJP organisations and independent thinkers mainly due to insensitive and preposterous comments of some fringe leaders of the saffron party. For instance, there were terse reactions from non-Hindus, when in the run-up to the first celebration of Yoga a BJP parliamentarian commented that “those opposing yoga should either leave the country or drown themselves in the ocean.” Such boisterous quip sparked speculation that the vigorous promotion of Yoga is the modus operandi of the Hindu right-wing in India as many critics commented that it is not wisdom and physical benefits of Yoga that interests the Hindu nationalists but their nefarious agenda to engineer unification of thought and culture of the majority. The practice of yoga may bring inner peace but freakish gloating by naïve party members over the UN recognition has virtually turned the achievement into a cause of stress in India as it is often tends to become the political fault line. Ever since the Indian government decided to celebrate International Yoga Day on a massive, worldwide scale, a new debate has sprung up about the need for the government to push yoga on everyone. The issue has divided political parties and polarised people along religious lines. Any opposition toward the practice is branded as anti-national. Therefore, participation in Yoga Day has become, in a way, the yardstick of one’s patriotism. Such a perception needs to be shelved and there should be no imposition of yoga on anybody by any institution or individual for flexibility is at yoga's core, and that is how it should be practiced - freely and on one's own free will.

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