“When you are in India, you must follow Modi. When you are in America, you must follow Trump,” said the semi-literate Odia instructor to a batch of 70-odd students at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (S-VYASA), a university which received crores from our prime minister not so long ago. 30 kms from Bangalore, its Vice-Chancellor, Dr. H. R. Nagendra (“Guruji” to his devotees), went further. “Thanks to Modi, we are now taking yoga to the world,” he said on the first day. Both the Odia speaker and Guruji told us to “have a smile on our face all the time”. Repeated so often whilst we performed our asanas, it became patently corny and destroyed any sense of feeling welcome and of enjoying a simple, one-hour class. Continue reading One month at an Indian Yoga Centre: Dhruv Ramnath→
There are many ways in which ‘saffronization’ is being carried out at various levels. It takes the form of virulent battles at one extreme and persistent soft-campaigns at the other. It really does not require deep skills in socio-political analysis to see this entire spectrum of insidious divisive politics – all of that are in the clearly visible band. Surprisingly, the CPI(M) seems to have taken the attitude of a friendly match when it comes to certain variants of soft-saffronization, pretending not to see what is going on behind often innocuous-sounding things like Yoga – the latest weapon being deployed in the saffronization campaign. Instead of questioning the premises of this misplaced ‘national celebration’ and its belligerent imposition that defines the Modi government move, the party has chosen to play a friendly match by wholeheartedly joining the soft-saffronization race.
The CPI(M, Kerala syndicate) has, in many ways, outperformed the RSS in Kerala so much so that the hyper-active media in Kerala had very little to report on how BJP and RSS celebrated yoga day in God’s Own Country. It seemed the Sanghis were pleasantly surprised at the saffronization of the CPI(M) itself! May be, the CPI(M) is gloating over how it out-smarted the Sanghis at their own game but that is not how it works in the world of everyday politics. For their part, the Sanghis could find nothing to object to in the way the new government in Kerala celebrated yoga. It seemed the Gods came to the CPI(M) party headquarters to pay obeisance to the newly enthroned in their glorious new clothes, new language, new style, new gait, new approach, and, of course, some inklings of a new, disquieting politics.
We write as concerned scholars, many of whom have long been indebted to yoga and pranayama for their therapeutic effects, about the many plans that are being made to declare June 21 as a successful start of International Yoga Day. While mindful of yoga as a most desirable option for health care, we are concerned by the central compulsion driving the directives issued by the present Government, namely about entering the Guinness Book of Records through a show of numerical strength. We are even more alarmed about the government order addressed to university teachers and staff and school students to perform yoga on 21st June in public, and construe this as a compulsion that amounts to misuse of state authority.