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Surya Namaskar: Several political, religious groups criticize Govt directive

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Advisor Khan says, “not mandatory, just individual choice”

Srinagar: While as various political parties and religious groups criticized the directive of higher education department regarding performing Surya Namaskar, Advisor to the Lt Governor, Farooq Khan said that it was not mandatory and everyone was free to perform or not to perform it.

Various political and religious groups criticised the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order directing college heads in the union territory to organise the exercise on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, saying it was interference in religious affairs.

The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), an amalgam of several religious organisations, took strong exception to the order and said the authorities were well aware that Jammu and Kashmir is Muslim-majority and like people from other religions, Muslims will not participate in religious practices of other religions.

“To deliberately force them to do so by issuing directives is mischievous,” it said.

“The Muslims of J-K are respectful of all religions and believe in harmonious coexistence, but will never yield to any pressure, if and when there is any interference in matters related to their faith,” it said in a statement.

Former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — and various political parties also criticised the order.

“Why should Muslim students be forced to do anything, including yoga, to celebrate Makar Sankranti? Makar Sankranti is a festival & to celebrate it or not must be a personal choice. Would the BJP be happy if a similar order was issued to order non-Muslim students to celebrate Eid?” Abdullah, the National Conference vice president, wrote on Twitter.

Mehbooba, who is also the PDP president, said the Centre’s “misadventures” aim to collectively “humiliate” Kashmiris.

“GOIs PR misadventures aim to demean & collectively humiliate Kashmiris. Forcing students & staff to perform surya namaskars by issuing orders despite their obvious discomfort with imposition of something laden with religious connotations gives an insight into their communal mindset,” Mehbooba said in a tweet.

Peoples Conference (PC) president Sajad Gani Lone also criticised the directive, saying the administration was undoing what liberal Muslims had earned.

In a series of tweets, Lone said the government will not succeed and the will of the people will eventually prevail.

“Why is the govt so insensitive. Now comes the surya namaskar episode. I wish the govt of the day understands that along many bloody battles fought in Kashmir — of immense importance was the war between liberal and radicals,” Lone wrote on Twitter.

“And these were not verbose battles. The blood of the Kashmir liberal Muslim was spilled on the streets. The liberals fought to keep the secular liberal traditions of Kashmir alive.  They fought the violence. They fought the bullets. The liberals rendered sacrifices,” he said.

Lone said with the ‘surya namaskar’ directive, the government was “emulating the radicals”.

“We have seen the brute power of the radicals all through nineties. U will not succeed. The will of the people will eventually prevail,” he said.

Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also took strong exception to the order and said the educational institutions must be kept aloof from “political maneuvering” and emphasis should be laid on providing quality education to the students.

“Celebrating festivals is an individual choice and the state has no right to interfere in it. However, this recent edict for observing Surya Namaskar in colleges across J-K is undoubtedly a dangerous enterprise that carries serious implications.

“The administration must stop communalising the academic atmosphere and should rather focus on the upgradation of these educational facilities,” he said.

He asked the government to withdraw the controversial order and desist from issuing such arbitrary diktats in the future.

However, reacting to these statements, Advisor to the Lieutenant Governor, Farooq Ahmad Khan Friday said that performing  ‘Surya Namaskar’ on the eve of Makar Sankranti is not ‘compulsory’, saying it’s the part of Yoga which must not be linked with ‘religion’.

“Since the practice is named after Namaste, it’s being linked with the religion. I must clear that it has not been mentioned in the order that one who does not perform Surya Namaskar will be punished, it’s not like that,” Khan told reporters here.

The Advisor to LG said one who wishes to perform the practice on Makar Sankranti can do it and one who does not wish is not forced at all.

It may be in place to mention that the Higher Education Department in its order asked faculty and students of all colleges in Jammu and Kashmir to perform Surya Namaskar on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

“To mark the holy occasion of Makar Sankranti on 14thJanuary 2022, Government of India has desired that on the occasion a large scale virtual Surya Namaskar be organized under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations,” reads an order by Director Colleges, J&K Higher education department.

The order asks faculty and students to make it a people-centric program with the tagline “Surya Namaskar for vitality”.

Meanwhile, officials said that people performed ‘Surya Namaskar’ exercise in some areas of Jammu and Kashmir under a government initiative on Friday.

An official spokesman said the Youth Services and Sports Office in Anantnag organised a large-scale virtual and physical performance of ‘Surya Namaskar’ by students and staff members on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

The exercise was performed at the district headquarters and some other areas of the district following COVID-19 guidelines, the spokesman said.

The participants showed a lot of interest in the event as they all believe that such events improve physical fitness, mostly when they are in home isolation due to Covid restrictions, he said.

The initiative was taken as part of the ‘Azaadi Ka Amrut Mahotsav’.

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