Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Compulsory Yoga Day in schools? Why did the 'Parivar' remove A K Ramanujan's Three Hundred Ramayanas from the DU syllabus?

Muslim organisations in Mumbai object to ‘compulsory’ Yoga Day in schools

NB: This is an exposure of the RSS agenda. It is not Yoga or ancient Indian wisdom, that interests them, but compulsion - in thought and culture as per their interpretation. First, an observation on the objections by the self-appointed representatives of 'the Muslim interest' and interpreters of Islam. To reduce any aasan to its origins in prayer is incorrect. (Muslim clerics in Rajasthan have adopted the same position). I have practiced yoga for over 30 years; and this includes surya namaskar. At no time did I imagine myself to be worshipping the Sun God – I was performing a physical exercise of value to my health. To treat yoga as some kind of religious ritual is ridiculous. It is now accepted the world over as an excellent aid to longevity and physical health.

But no one forced me to learn yoga.  I did so of my own free choice.  In this regard, the SIO statement is proper. It’s the compulsion that is the problem, and I agree with them.  The RSS and its representatives in government consider their positions as a means to enforce their view of Hindu culture.  Actually their motives run deeper than that. They are least bothered about Indian culture (read Purushottam Agrawal'insightful essay on this.) Their foremost concern is power and the acquisition of means to enforce their wishes and whims. It could be argued that their ultra-nationalism and nation-worship is a form of right-wing atheism. Why were A K Ramanujan's works dropped from the new DU history syllabus in 2011? Ramanujan was no atheist, and even if he was, would not the study of that essay have broadened the understanding of Indian culture? But their representatives in Delhi University campaigned for its removal, even after the SC-appointed expert committee wholeheartedly approved of the author’s scholarship. Mukul Kesavan’s op-ed piece on the controversy is worth reading again:

The expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court to investigate the matter had four members, three of whom endorsed Ramanujan’s essay without reservation. The fourth, while praising the essay’s scholarship, came to the conclusion that it would be difficult for college lecturers to teach with sufficient context, especially those who weren’t Hindu.

This is the basis for the politics and world-view of the RSS. This is their view of Indian unity (an imperium, to be enforced by an armed Hindu nation). It extends to their view of the Ramayan as well as to surya namaskar. In a word, the compulsory unification of thought and culture. The RSS are no different from the ayatollahs and maulanas whom they love to hate. They wish to lay down the law (and defy it as per their convenience), to define culture, to define how India may remain united, how women and children may behave. Such is the inner universe of our sanghis. It became most apparent when the BJP's victory was seen by them as a means of justifying the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. 

It is a self-defeating project, gentlemen. If decades of deceit have not completely erased your powers of self-reflection, please ask yourselves why you were so anxious to remove Three Hundred Ramayanas from the DU reading list. Are you capable of an honest debate on this? For example, it is my view that you wished to underline your self-understanding as the 'true representatives' of Hindu culture, to re-iterate that only you and no one else could comment on the Ramayana. You couldn't ban the essay, but you insisted on its removal from the syllabus. Your student wing used intimidation in the process, to make it clear what you could do to re-inforce that status. Here are some readings on that controversy:
A K Ramanujan works dropped from new DU syllabus
A word of advice to the karyakartas and sanchalaks - please awaken from your ideological stupor, and rejoin the ranks of ordinary mortals. We will learn yoga, not to please you, but for our own good health. And the so-called leaders of Indian Muslims may please desist from puerile religious interpretations of yogic postures, and concentrate on improving the social well-being of Indian Muslims, as indeed, of all Indians. We have had enough 'representation'. Lets be ourselves for a change. DS

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Muslim organisations in Mumbai object to ‘compulsory’ Yoga Day in schools
A day after Maharashtra government passed a diktat for schools to remain open on Sunday, June 21, to mark International Yoga Day, several Muslim outfits in Mumbai slammed the order saying that yoga, including Surya Namaskar, requires a person to bow (to Sun God), and bowing was a practice reserved for Namaz. The Muslim organisations have decided to meet the chief minister on Wednesday asking that Yoga sessions be not made compulsory. “It is detrimental to our religious freedom. Islam being a monotheistic religion, the followers cannot bow before anyone except Allah, and it is wrong to impose such things on Muslims,” said Mohammed Zahoor Ahmed, education secretary of Jamat- e-Islami Hind. “Yoga has Surya Namaskar which means bowing to the Sun God. Muslim students may not be comfortable doing this. Muslims taking up Yoga should be a voluntary move, making it mandatory is unfair.” June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the UN General Assembly in December 2014, following which the state government had asked schools to devise programmes to mark the day.

Mohammed Salman, president of Students Islamic Organisation’s Mumbai Chapter, said: “We do not mind if they introduce any activities which help students. However, forcing it on them would disturb harmony and peace and damage the very foundation of secularism.” In May, the school education department had directed schools to mark the day, and had set up a 24-member committee to chalk out guidelines for Yoga Day.

Though School Education and Sports Minister Vinod Tawde had then said schools could celebrate it on another day, on Monday he urged schools to call students on Sunday, June 21. All-India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen MLA from Byculla Waris Pathan called the move “unconstitutional”. “If students choose Yoga, Sanskrit, Gita recitation voluntarily, it’s fine with us, but making them mandatory is unconstitutional. This, according to me, is an indirect way of promoting a ‘Hindu rashtra’ by the BJP government. Recently, a Muslim girl won prize for Gita recitation, no Muslim organisation objected to that as it was her decision,” claimed Pathan.

A senior official of the school education department, the nodal authority implementing the government order, said the office was looking at it purely as a “physical activity”. Schools, meanwhile, said they were mulling if the state government could relieve the compulsory tag and allow the children leave on Sunday. “While the minister claims Yoga Day may help students de-stress, we think it will overburden students if we call them on Sundays for Yoga. Students already have too many activities… hence starting mandatory Yoga practice will not be feasible. Some schools in the city already offer Yoga as an activity, though it is voluntary,” said the principal of a school in south Mumbai.