Monday, June 15, 2015

Yoga Hoga

NB - My article on the artificial yoga controversy has appeared in The Indian Express today. (My original title was as it appears here) - DS:

Yoga Hoga
The ongoing controversy about yoga is yet another example of deceitful polemic. It began with a reminder that yoga has nothing to do with religion. Of late, however, sundry political swamis have announced that anyone who disapproves of compulsory yoga should leave the country. So now yoga is essential not only to Hinduism but to national pride. Refusal to submit to this rule is treachery. The ‘Parivar’ presumes to decide what is or is not ‘national’ and who may or may not live in India. Perhaps some energetic policemen will lodge a case of sedition against anyone refusing to perform surya-namaskar.

This manufactured controversy exemplifies the Parivar’s modus operandi. It is not wisdom that interests them, but the compulsory unification of thought and culture. As for the objections raised by certain self-appointed representatives of Indian Muslims, surely the reduction of any aasan to its symbolic origins is far-fetched? I have practiced yoga for over 30 years; including surya-namaskar. At no time did I imagine myself to be worshipping the Sun God – it was simply an exercise beneficial to my health. Yoga is accepted the world over as an excellent aid to longevity. To treat it as a Hindu religious ritual is equivalent to believing that aerobics are a step towards Christianity or that acupuncture is an insignia of Chinese imperialism.

But I learned yoga of my own free choice (and, incidentally, was taught it by a Muslim friend). In this regard, the statements issued by some Muslim groups are appropriate. It’s the compulsion that is the problem. RSS representatives in government are attempting to enforce their version of Indian culture. And their behavior indicates that they treat culture as a means of political domination.

If the Parivar wished to promote Indian tradition, why did cause AK Ramanujan's works to be dropped from Delhi University’s history syllabus in 2011? Ramanujan was a world-renowned scholar who loved the Ramayana. Reading The Three Hundred Ramayanas can broaden most people’s understanding of Indian culture. But the Parivar’s representatives campaigned for its removal, even though an expert committee approved of the author’s scholarship. Their student wing resorted to intimidation in the process. As Mukul Kesavan observed in an article on the controversy (The Telegraph, October 27, 2011):

“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 reasoning is typical of the RSS, which tends to conflate wisdom with cunning. Most lecturers are Hindu anyway, and surely the aim of education is to broaden our minds? No, it is plurality that alarms them. In Kesavan’s words, ‘Hindutva seeks to re-make the diversity of Hindu narratives and practices into a uniform faith based on standardized texts.’ Standardization, uniformity and compulsion are the ideals that inform the Parivar’s concept of India (an imperium); its view of the Ramayana, whose many versions it wishes to sanitise, as well as surya-namaskar, whose health-benefits are of less significance than the expectation that Muslims might object to it. All the gestures of the RSS are assertions that they alone represent Hindus, and designed to evoke adverse reactions. Such reactions can be used to tell their critics yet again, to ‘go to Pakistan.’

The RSS thrives on animosity. They would have been truly upset had Muslims not objected to compulsory yoga.

Popular sovereignty has been perverted in South Asia. It refers not to the People but to the Emperor’s Moustache. The people may not define their nation - it is the Nation that defines the People. The people are seen as a biomass of zombies – hamara maal, as the sarsangchaalak once said. Our imperial metaphors symbolize the inner world of communalists. The RSS are no different from the maulanas they love to hate. They wish to lay down the law (and defy it when they like), flatten popular culture, and tell us all how to behave. 

The Hindutva brigade should awaken from its ideological stupor. Their desire for political supremacy shines through their stupid dictats. It is not yoga that is at stake here, but the moustachios of the sarsanghchalak. We need not have them thrust upon our children at breakfast.

We will learn yoga, not to please the RSS, but for our health. Here’s a suggestion for the sarsanghchalak: please read the essay you censored, by A K Ramanujan. It’s available on the Net. Make it compulsory reading for your cadre! It’s a brilliant celebration of Indian culture. And it’s thought-provoking. Thinking is something your followers sorely need to do. Next time they do surya-namaskar they could actually experience light.

See also: