By Tanya Shrivastava, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.

Be it the Babri Masjid case or riots against Operation Blue Star or a case as recent as the Atali Village riots, why is it that we Indians are so impatient and intolerant towards our religion? More than believing in it, we romanticize our religious beliefs. Why is it that we interpret any and every statement to be a bashing against our conscience? This all dates back to the time when the British brought the infamous “Divide and rule Policy” with the hope of ruling India for more decades to come, they successfully infused the need of division into our minds.

We all got the feeling of rage when we read the story, of how British led to the division of India, in our history books with our innocent minds. Then, why is it that when we got mature, we started contributing ourselves towards what was stared almost a century from now? Or can it even be called maturity? Because looking at the condition, how all the discussions boil down to religion bashing and how our progress is put to a halt every time some drastic decision is taken for a change, wouldn’t an immature mind, who loves its country more than its beliefs, would be apt to run the Government? Or what we are doing now as educated citizens of our country is more juvenile than those immature minds?

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One such example of the juvenile steps by the mature minds is the removal of Surya Namaskar from the International Yoga Day and the removal of the observance same from the schools as demanded by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Let us back up a few years and try to remember the days when we were made to sit there when some instructor forced us to perform all the Asanas with the claim that this all was for our benefit only, what was the only thing that was going in all our minds? I don’t recall ever thinking about how I am trying to make my god happy! It was always either “when this will be over?” or “I am so much better than everyone else”. If we were to fulfill the demand of this Non-Governmental Organisation, there can be two possible steps for the same. Either we eliminate the Surya Namaskar from the Schools completely or we make it optional for the Muslim students in the Schools.

If we analyse the long term effects of both the options available, the complete elimination of observance of this sequence of Asanas would have many unwanted effects than protecting the essence of other religions. Firstly, this will mean that we are forgetting the objective of performing these Asanas. No one does it to pray but to keep themselves healthy. These exercises, as discovered by Indian, inculcate healthy life styles to the children since very early age, by making them practice these in Schools. Moreover, this will motivate the people to put their religion ahead of their country’s values and ideals. Now, if the second option is chosen, i.e., we make it optional for the Muslim students in the Schools, we will observe most of the students will choose not to do the Asanas, not in the name of religion, but just to avoid the Asanas, because in a child’s mind, things can be that simple. Moreover, this would infuse the feeling of division in the minds of the future citizens from a very young age.

This kind of problem when arose in US where some parents started complaining of their children being made to perform ashtanga yoga twice a week, the schools replaced the Sanskrit names for the postures with standard English names and some special child-friendly ones, such as “kangaroo” “surfer” and “washing machine”. The lotus position has been rebranded “criss-cross apple sauce”, the Surya namaskar has become the “opening sequence” and the organisers insist that it is all just a form of physical exercise.

The National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP) recently took up the cases of some still unconvinced parents of the compulsory observance of Yoga in schools to the San Diego County Superior Court, which ruled that although yoga’s roots are religious, the modified form of the practice is fine to teach in schools.

Similar petitions were observed in India. A petition was filed by the Ajmat – a- Rasool Foundation in the Rajasthan High Court against the order of the Education Department of making surya namaskar and yoga compulsory in schools during the assembly for health purposes. The division bench of Justice Ajit Singh and J K Ranka issued notices against the department stating making the surya namaskar compulsory in schools is untenable in a secular country like India with its diversity of religious faith and believes.

The Madhya Pradesh Government was ordered not to make ‘surya namaskar’ and ‘pranayam’ mandatory for students in schools. This time the petition was filed by the Catholic Church.

It must be noted here that US, like India, too is a secular country. So, do we give in to the demand of saving secularism too easily? The world, at present, is becoming the patient to a new disease every day. The question that arises here is that can we afford to let go off this drastic measure taken by the Government for making the future of India healthier. Moreover, Yoga and Surya Namaskar originated in India and today many of the countries are adopting these as their own for a healthy life. So, shouldn’t we be a nationalist first and work towards using these miracles for our own benefits? Moreover, no one ever said that there is need for chanting any mantras while performing these.

In my opinion, we should pick up the recent census and look at the number of people who succumbed to various diseases and then look at our younger generation, look at the fact that India has made more progress in the field of Ayurveda and Yoga than in technology and medicine. Look at the bigger picture and see the easiest way for betterment. Once we are through, we would know what the right step would be and with which side we would be fighting for.

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