Hundreds Perform Yoga In Kashmir Amid Protests By Religious Groups

21 June 2015
The Hindustan Times
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: Thousands of youngsters, including hijab-wearing girls, participated in army-organised events marking the International Day of Yoga in the Kashmir valley on Sunday against the backdrop of protests by religious and student groups. Students of Kashmir University opposed any move to organise yoga sessions on the campus and most government schools and colleges in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley gave a miss to the event. Over 4,700 members of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) performed 'asanas' (postures) at eight venues in Srinagar, Baramulla, Uri, Bandipura Tangdhar, Anantnag, Kargil and Leh in the Kashmir region. The biggest Yoga Day event was held in Srinagar's Bakshi Stadium, where over 1,200 NCC cadets were present. The same number participated in an event held at Leh in the high-altitude Ladakh region. 'These NCC cadets had undergone structured training by trained yoga instructors,' said a Srinagar-based army spokesman. The training of the NCC cadets began in mid-April. 'The standard of performing yoga was evident with the synchronised and well-timed movements as well as the confidence and ease with which these cadets performed in unison today,' said the spokesman. 'The event was a phenomenal success and the credit goes to the cadets for their willing participation,' said Brig S S Ratnaparkhi, Group Commander of the NCC Group Headquarters in Srinagar. In Kashmir University, students resorted to overnight protests on the campus to oppose any move to organise yoga camps. They shouted anti-BJP and pro-freedom slogans for more than two hours. 'We decided not to allow it because we have nothing to do with yoga or Yoga Day,' said a protesting student. The Jamaat-e-Islami, the Kashmir Valley's largest socio-religious group, had opposed yoga and described it as 'not only a physical exercise but a religious dogma'. 'Yoga is not a simple exercise but a religious exercise-cum-prayer of a particular polytheistic community in which, besides physical exercises, some religious practices of this particular community are intermixed,' alleged Jamaat spokesman Zahid Ali. 'Participants bow before the sun or any other creature, which is not only prohibited in Islam but a mortal sin,' he added. The Jamaat-e-Islami had warned people against participating in such events, saying 'Muslims should not be swayed by any propaganda and remain firmly attached to their faith in Islam, which provides the best guidance for the human beings in general.' The Yoga Day is a pet project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who joined tens of thousands in performing asanas at Delhi's Rajpath. Events were also organised across the country.