Outrage in Kashmir after govt circular orders colleges to do ‘Surya Namaskar’ on Hindu religious festival


A few days ago, the Jammu and Kashmir government directed the higher education department to organize a large scale virtual Surya Namaskar on the occasion of a Hindu religious festival. The order has drawn flak from all quarters who have demanded its rollback. 

Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net

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SRINAGAR — Top religious bodies, political parties and social activists criticized the authorities in Jammu and Kashmir for asking students, faculty members and staff of all colleges in the Union Territory to “compulsorily participate in the Hindu religious practice of ‘Surya Namaskar’ on a religious festival of Makar Sankranti being observed.”

A few days ago, the Jammu and Kashmir government directed the higher education department to organize a large scale virtual Surya Namaskar.

The order was issued by the Directorate of Colleges, Higher Education Department, who directed the Nodal Principal of two colleges—GGM Science College Jammu and SP College Srinagar to organise the event under the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Programme.

“To mark the holy Occasion of Makar Sankranthi on 14th January 2022, Gol has desired that on the occasion a large Scale Virtual Surya Namaskar, be organised under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav Celebrations To make it a People-Centric Successful Programme with Tagline “Surya Namaskar For Vitality”. Kindly ensure that all faculty members and students actively participate in this programme by registering on any of the following portals,” reads the order, a copy of which lies with TwoCircles.net.

Copy of the order

The order has, however, drawn sharp flak from various sections of the Muslim majority region. 

Responding to the order, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), the amalgam of religious organisations said that “J&K is a Muslim majority state, and Muslims will not like participating in religious practices of other religions.” 

To deliberately force them to do so by issuing directives is mischievous, it said.

In a statement, the amalgam said the rulers should be clear that this is completely unacceptable to the Muslims of the state who will never yield to such highhandedness. “Muslims of J&K are respectful of all religions and believe in harmonious coexistence but will never yield to any pressure, if and when there is any interference in matters related to their faith,” MMU said.  

It said that it is quite sad and tells about the sorry state of affairs pervading India, that while the religious practice of one religion gets promoted and imposed in the name of peace, that of the other gets banned and barred in the name of threat; referring to the repeated lockdown by authorities of the central Jamia Masjid Srinagar where obligatory Friday prayers are not allowed for months now.

“And the disruptions caused to Friday prayers in Gurgaon by goons having a free run. The recent open call to the genocide of Muslims of India by a religious conference in Haridwar and the silence of the state in this regard is a shocking case of bigotedness and discrimination against Muslims which has become the order of the day in today’s India,” MMU said. 

Former Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah while blaming the authorities posted on Twitter, “Why should Muslim students be forced to do anything, including yoga, to celebrate Makar Sankranti? Makar Sankranti is a festival & to celebrate it or not must be a personal choice. Would the BJP be happy if a similar order was issued to order non-Muslim students to celebrate Eid?” 

Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said, “GOls PR misadventures aim to demean & collectively humiliate Kashmiris. Forcing students & staff to perform Surya namaskars by issuing orders despite their obvious discomfort with the imposition of something laden with religious connotations gives an insight into their communal mindset.”

Awami National Conference Vice President Muzaffar Shah said that forcing students and teachers to perform Surya Namaskar is a blatant violation of the Constitution that warrants stringent action against the officials issuing such orders. 

“The LG Shri Manoj Sinha should get this order of the education department withdrawn forthwith,” Shah said.

However, following the controversy, the Government said that there is no compulsion to anyone to join the event.

“No one is forced to do that, anyone who wants can do that, and it is not mentioned anywhere in the order that if anyone is not doing that anything can be done,” Advisor to LG, Farooq Khan said. 

Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed.