Chanting of Mantras and Om on Yoga Day, Muslim Clerics Flay Centre
Prime Minister Narendra Modi performs yoga with others to mark the International Day of Yoga. (File Photo/Reuters)
New Delhi: Controversy is brewing over International Yoga Day with the Narendra Modi government being accused of pushing its Hindutva agenda by asking participants to chant vedic mantras and Om before the 45-minute session.
A common yoga protocol has been circulated by the Ministry of AYUSH which said that the yogic practice shall start with a prayer to enhance the benefits of yoga. The protocol has been prepared by a government-appointed panel of experts for those participating in the International Yoga Day on June 21. It has been circulated through government departments, schools, colleges and universities across the country.
In his letter to universities last week, UGC secretary Jaspal S Sandhu had sought the "personal indulgence" of Vice Chancellors in celebrating yoga day in their varsities as well as affiliated bodies.
"I request you to draw action plan for International Day of Yoga and also ensure wide participation of students and teachers of your esteemed University in the yoga day celebrations," the senior UGC official said in his letter along with the Ayush ministry's 45-minute protocol for practising yoga.
The protocol starts with a two-minute prayer preceded by chants of 'Om' and some Sanskrit Shlokas and followed by 18 minutes of yoga postures and pranayam.
As per the protocol, participants would sit in a meditative pose for 9 minutes and there would be 'Shanti Paath' towards the end.
But opposition parties and religious leaders have objected to the protocol. They accuse the government of trying to threaten the secular fabric of the country.
"Chanting Om or other words is related to one religion which applies to the entire country. This is against secularism. This is against our faith which is a wrong use of one's power. This is a planning to take all India into one umbrella of faith," said Shafique Qazmi, a Muslim cleric.
Stating that there is no need for controversy, Bollywood actor Anupam Kher said, "It is the expression of work. They should be allowed to do what they deem fit. Implementation is important. Om word comes in yoga. This should not be made into controversy. Those who do not want to say Om, they should't say it, there is no problem."
However, the government and BJP insisted that protocol of 2015 has been maintained and no changes have been made.
There is no compulsion to chant 'Om', a senior Ayush Ministry official said.
BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said, "There is no compulsion. Some people are linking yoga to religion while it is essentially meant for holistic well being. It should be a matter of pride that the UN celebrates Yoga Day and about 196 countries follow it. The dirty tricks department of the Congress is behind the controversy."
In 2015 also, a similar proposal had created a controversy after which a clarification was issued by the Ayush Ministry that chanting 'Om' was not compulsory.
(With additional information from PTI)