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Indian State makes Yoga mandatory in grade school

posted by sheetal

Last week, the Times of India reported that the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is making yoga mandatory for school children in grades 1 – 5.   What a great idea!

The article can be found online at http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-31/news/40914078_1_yoga-teachers-chouhan-master-trainers.



  • http://IsmakingYogamandatoryinpublicschoolagreatidea? Khalid

    Sheetal

    The Hindu American Foundation states that you are the lead for their “Take Yoga Back” campaign. The campaign is about reclaiming the Hindu legacy of Yoga by countering the argument that Yoga is not secular, but deeply rooted in Hinduism.

    In light of your own belief that Yoga is deeply rooted in Hinduism and should not be treated as a secular, non-religious form of activity, how do you reconcile the hypocrisy that on the one hand, your organization HAF has been campaigning in the name of secularism for the elimination of Christian symbolism in American public spaces such as the removal of 10 commandment monuments and on the other hand, you are rooting for the compulsory institution of what you view as Hindu Yoga in public schools in India?

    It looks like the Hindu American Foundation positions are riddled with such double standards where they want for the Hindus what the oppose for other religious groups.

    Further, in a more recent blog, you had mentioned that:

    “HAF’s current team spans both the political and religious spectrum, most of whom have a distaste for Indian politics of any sort, and none of whom espouse Hindutva politics. Never have my colleagues pressured me ideologically, and such pressure would certainly be seen as bizarre and unacceptable by our staff.”

    In such a case, why are you delving into Indian politics here, knowing full well that this mandating of Yoga in Madhya Pradesh public schools was an act of the Hindu Nationalist government there and is currently sub-judice in the Indian courts as a violation of secular principles of India!

    These kinds of slips tend to happen when one views secularism, not as a value to be embodied, but as a “strategic cover for operating in the United States” to get back at the “detesable Christian missionaries” for what they are doing to Hindus in India.

    Please check with your senior founders at HAF if you don’t know what I’m talking about!

  • http://ConcernedaboutthefutureofIndianAmericans Proud Indian

    Khalid has raised some good points. Whatever one’s views may be about the religious roots of Yoga, imposing it on school children in a secular, pluralist country should be opposed. At most, the school can offer an after-hours program where interested parents can enroll their children for Yoga classes, with such enrollment being purely optional.

    With steady inroads into school curriculum and now the imposition of Yoga, I think India needs to be wary of the creeping saffronization.

    • sheetal

      Thanks for the comment. First of all, this was a two sentence personal post, so you’re reading into it a bit much.

      Second, HAF’s position on yoga in public schools in the US is in line with a 1st Amendment focus on separation of church and state (see http://www.hafsite.org/media/pr/yoga-public-school). While HAF has taken a stand against teaching Yoga in its entirety in public schools, it is supportive of asana-based physical programs that promote healthy and able young bodies.

      The same holds true in India. If all students in MP were required to do invocations to Ganesha or Shiva during yoga class, HAF would certainly object to that. But based on the limited information provided in the article, that does not seem to be the case.

      Keeping mind though that India is not America, and it is not unusual to see Hindus and Muslims jointly visiting the Dargas of Sufi saints, or Hindus and Sikhs jointly attending Gurudwara or Temple. So India’s unique treatment of secularism needs to be considered in context, not simply as a mindless application of what occurs in the US.

  • Proud Indian

    Sheetal,

    According to HAF Executive Director, Suhag Shukla ESQ:

    “Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, the key word being ‘combination’ with an emphasis on the spiritual.”

    Also:

    “Yoga is a holistic and spiritual system of living that is essential to the understanding and practice of Hinduism.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suhag-a-shukla-esq/yoga-wont-wreck-your-body_b_1195754.html

    How unique is the treatment of secularism in India that something that is so deeply personal is being sought to be made mandatory? Thankfully neither Hindus, nor Muslims nor Sikhs, can compel even their co-religionists to visit temples, or Sufi shrines or Gurdwaras much less compel people who adhere to a different religious tradition. The mutual visitation you have cited are purely optional and personal.

    It is of course true that HAF, true to its Hindutva ideology, would like a special kind of secularism to be imposed on India, starting with making Yoga mandatory even for non-Hindus.

  • http://www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org/ Shetty

    If the Hindutva project was limited to imposing Yoga on unwilling non-Hindus, much violence and needless loss of human lives could have been avoided.

    Minorities in India have suffered so much, I think they should be pragmatic, and come to some kind of compromise with the Sangh Parivar. They should agree to practice Asanas and the other physical aspects of Yoga every morning, in return for the security of life, and the ability to practice their own relgion with dignity.

  • Shetty

    Sorry if my last post appeared disrespectful. I believe we can mutually enhance and enrich our lives by appreciating the positive aspects of every culture, and thus give meaning to the phrase, “Unity in Diversity.”

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