We consider yog as a form to physical exercise and accept it. While offering namaz, we do several physical movements, which also fall in the category of yog. It has nothing to do with religion and so we don't object to it at any level.
—Ashraf Usmani, PRO of Darul Uloom, Deoband
The beauty of Yog as a tool of Renaissance of Indian culture is that it is universal. Narendra Modi identified it and the world resonated. We were looking at a phenomenon which would work as an ambassador of the country in the world. Unfortunately, someone attached an unforced controversy with the very soul of Yog. With it's integral concept and use of ‘Om’. There were media reports that the government was under pressure to exclude ‘Om’ from the 35-Minutes protocol that was formalised to give uniformity to the method of celebration. This triggered a round of debate on whether ‘Om’ should be included in the official protocol of the government.
Who said what:
- To make yog aam choice, Narendra Modi government to drop all references to ‘aum’ from promotion.
– The Economic Times, 18-April.
- ET write up on exclusion of Aum in Yog CD for Intl Yog Day is incorrect n misleading. CD is being prepared by our govt n starts with Aum.
– @rammadhavbjp, Twitter, 19-April.
- The mention of the “universal sound” of aum is being avoided to ensure that there is no religious overtone given to International Yog Day.
– Ishwar V Basavaraddi, director, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yog.
This was not the first time that efforts have been made to marginalise a symbol of Bharatiya (even if not specifically Hindu) heritage. The sad part is that this has been done by the Government, which is meant to provide patronage to the very heritage and culture. This controversy on usage of ‘Om’ on International Day of Yog is not the first one. This has been rampant in India since Independence.
- In 1937, a proposal to anoint Vande Mataram as National Anthem was opposed by certain thinkers and Congress leaders due to offense taken by a particular belief in reciting it.
- In Doordarshan programme ‘Krishi Darshan’, 'Ram-Ram' used for greeting was replaced with Namaskar, for it may sound communal.
- In Feb 2015, Rajasthan Govt's decision to mandate Surya Namaskar in schools was dubbed as saffronisation of education.
In all the three examples quoted above, there was no religious belief that was being forced on people of different faiths. The first was case of expression of patriotism, second was of popular culture and third related to practice of well-being. Still, all of these were opposed to varied degrees just because these were inseparable from Hindu ideology. The latest opposition to ‘Om’ in Yog highlights the impracticality of secular ideology, which cannot differentiate a universal entity from a communal one.
What has been different in present case is the firm stand taken by the government. Though it allowed all dissent to be heard, it resolutely stuck to conduct of being reasonable and fair. The government has kept the chants of ‘Om’ in the opening of ceremony intact. This marks an important change in attitude of government in catering to the insane voices of bigotry within the diplomacy and in society. One of the prime aspects of Yog is unification. It teaches us to unite. It teaches us tolerance. Any dissent emerging out of intolerance is against the ethos of Yog. If the world has to realise the potential of Yog, it has to adopt path of acceptance. – Rachit Kaushik