The practice of performing 'Surya Namaskar' in schools is not mandatory, says the state government.
Since 2007, students of government-run schools across Madhya Pradesh have marked the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda on January 12 by performing the yogic 'Surya Namaskar' exercise.
But the Coordination Committee for Indian Muslims, an organisation comprising leading Muslim groups, has strongly objected to the practice.
The organisation has put up posters in cities across Madhya Pradesh, urging Muslim students to report if they are being "coerced" to perform 'Surya Namaskar' this year.
"Through 'Surya Namaskar', the government is making children worship the Sun, which is against our religion. Muslim children cannot do it," said Dr Zafar Hasan, a member of the group.
He pointed out that though the state government claims that participation in the event is optional, "When in a class of 50 children, 10 Muslim or Christian students refrain from doing it, children learn to discriminate against each other on the basis of religion, which is wrong."
This is not the first time the BJP-led state government has faced protests over this issue.
In 2009, the Catholic Church moved the state High Court, which directed that 'Surya Namaskar' cannot be made mandatory in schools.
Deepak Joshi, the Madhya Pradesh School Education Minister, claimed that though the government wanted to introduce the practice in schools on a regular basis, the plan was dropped after it was accused of trying to "saffronise the education system".
"I would say even non-Hindu students should do it, for their health. If they want, they can skip reciting the mantra during the exercise," said Mr Joshi.
He also informed that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan "plans to introduce yoga in the school curriculum from next year".
"If yoga is included, so will 'Surya Namaskar', but it will not be made mandatory," said the Minister.
There is no mechanism to check if students performing 'Surya Namaskar' on Swami Vivekananda's birth anniversary do so voluntarily, admitted Manoj Bhatnagar, Principal of the Chandra Shekhar Azad Government School in Bhopal.
"In my school, children from all religions will perform 'Surya Namaskar' on January 12. As of now, we do not have a process to ascertain whether a student has consented to do it," he said.