Jammu and Kashmir’s administrative directive for ‘Surya Namaskar’ on Makar Sankranti sparks row

A government order asking college faculty members and students to perform Surya Namaskar has drawn heavy criticism from two former J&K chief ministers and the city’s mayor, as they called the order a ‘undemocratic.

Director of Colleges, Department of Higher Education, Yasmeen Ashai, in an order, had directed Nodal Director, Colleges in Jammu Division, and Nodal Director, Colleges in Kashmir Division, for organizing a Surya Namaskar on a large scale on Friday on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

“Government of India wished that on this occasion a large-scale virtual Surya Namaskar be organized as part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations to make it a successful people centered program with a slogan “Surya Namaskar for vitality. Please ensure that all faculty members and students actively participate in the programs,” the government order reads.

“Why should Muslim students be forced to do anything, including yoga, to celebrate Makar Sankranti? It’s a festival and whether or not to celebrate it should be a personal choice. Would the BJP be happy if a similar order was issued ordering non-Muslim students to celebrate Eid,” NC Deputy Chairman and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah asked in a tweet.

Another former chief minister and president of the PDP, Mehbooba Mufti, also criticized the decision. “The GOI’s public relations misadventures are aimed at collectively belittling and humiliating Kashmiris. Forcing students and staff to execute Surya Namaskars by issuing orders despite their obvious discomfort with the imposition of something laden with religious connotations gives insight into their common mindset,” Mufti tweeted.

Srinagar City Mayor and Apni Party leader Junaid Azim Mattu called the order “undemocratic”.

“No activity with origins in religion, mythology or faith should be imposed on anyone. Such broad and undemocratic guidelines violate fundamental tenets of our constitution,” Mattu tweeted.

Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), the amalgamation of several J&K religious organizations, strongly opposed the government order in a statement.

The MMU said: “Deliberately forcing them to do so by issuing directives is malicious. The leaders must be clear that this is completely unacceptable to the Muslims in the state who will never give in to such authoritarianism.

The statement further states that J&K Muslims respect all religions and believe in harmonious co-existence, but will never yield to any pressure, if and when there is any interference in matters related to their faith.