This Article is From Jun 10, 2015

No Compulsion to Practice Yoga on June 21, Clarifies Government

Photo of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

New Delhi: External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and home minister Rajnath Singh today tried to allay the fears of a section of Muslim community, pointing out that practising yoga on June 21, the International Yoga Day, will not be compulsory.

"Those who want can do it and those who do not want, may not," said the Home Minister.

The 35-minute demonstration on Delhi's Rajpath - which will include school children -- to mark the occasion will reportedly not include Surya Namaskar. The famous sun salutation, which is also a tough yoga routine, had raised the hackles of some Muslim groups, which have called it un-Islamic. They have also opposed the idea of yoga being introduced and made compulsory in schools.

Ms Swaraj, who will be leading the Indian delegation to New York for a yoga programme at Times Square, however, pointed out, "47 Muslim countries co-sponsored our resolution at UN. If these groups knew that, they wouldn't have said this."

The All India Muslim Personal Law Board has told NDTV that their opposition is not to yoga but to making it compulsory in schools. "It is against our religious beliefs and should not be forced on our children," it had earlier said.

The controversy had snowballed with BJP legislator Yogi Adityanath commenting, "If anyone can see communalism in the sun, I humbly request them to go and drown themselves in the sea."

The Congress and the Samajwadi Party hit out, alleging that he was trying to create communal divide. Distancing the party and the government, Ms Swaraj said his comments were "unfortunate".

The government is organising Yoga Day events in 192 countries except Yemen.

The programme at Times Square, where 30,000 people will be led through the poses by yoga guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, will be beamed live; 35,000 people, including diplomats and students, will take part in the event at Rajpath.

June 21 was named the International Yoga Day following support from 177 countries. The huge support is seen as an affirmation of India's growing stature in world stage and its soft power.