A Bharatiya Janata Party corporator has moved a proposal to make Yoga and Surya Namaskar mandatory in schools run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation. While a discussion on the proposal is awaited, the Shiv Sena, the larger party in the BMC, said it believed training in martial arts would be more welcome. The proposal is expected to be hotly opposed by the Samajwadi Party, which has said this would amount to “mixing of education and religion”.
BJP corporator from Mulund Samita Kamble moved the proposal a fortnight ago, saying Yoga and Suryanamaskar would help students of the 1,285 BMC schools maintain fitness. “Yoga is a world renowned exercise for fitness. Surya Namaskar is also categorised under Yoga.
There’s nothing wrong in doing exercise for fitness. It’ll be wrong to give it any religious colour,” she told The Indian Express.
Kamble said she wanted to make these exercises mandatory in all civic schools, including the nearly 400 Urdu-medium ones.
The Samajwadi Party has already raised its objection to the proposal, which is slated for discussion at the BMC’s general body meeting on August 23. “Children from all religions study in civic schools. Suryanamaskar is related to the Hindu religion and it will not be right to make it compulsory for students of other religions. This is impinging on the religious freedom of other communities guaranteed under our Constitution,” said Rais Shaikh, corporator from Govandi and senior Samajwadi Party leader in the BMC, adding that he would ask Mayor Snehal Ambekar to outright reject Kamble’s proposal.
Shaikh said corporators from other religions might also move similar proposals in the future. “Education should not be mixed with religion. This is an attempt to create a rift between religions. The BJP has been attempting to saffronise education since coming to power at the Centre and in the state. The move seems to have been made keeping in mind the upcoming civic elections,” he added.
The Shiv Sena, which controls the BMC, said it would be better to offer martial arts training to students than Yoga and Suryanamaskar.
“Ideally, it should not be imposed on anybody. Martial arts training will help girls in self-defence and reduce crimes against women,” said Trushna Vishwasrao, senior Shiv Sena corporator and leader of the House in the BMC.
Incidentally, Aaditya Thackeray, president of the Shiv Sena’s youth wing, along with Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, started a ‘women’s self-defence centre’ in Andheri Sports Complex two years ago.
The Congress, meanwhile, took a cautious view of Kamble’s proposal stating that the issue was being played up for political gains ahead of civic elections. “Even if the general body passes the proposal, it is not final. The civic chief will have to look into it,” said Pravin Chheda, Congress corporator and Opposition leader in the BMC.