The Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party ruled Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has approved a proposal making yoga and Surya Namaskar mandatory in all civic schools in Mumbai, drawing ire of opposition parties which on Wednesday dubbed the move as a ploy to "promote Hindutva" and "saffronise" education.
The BMC's general body cleared the proposal tabled by BJP corporator Samita Kamble on Tuesday with an aim to improve overall health of students by incorporating the ancient exercise regime into their daily routine.
The ruling allies rejected the amendment demanded by Congress and Samajwadi Party to make yoga optional for schools.
They also struck down the SP's demand for removal of 'Surya Namaskar' (sun salutation) from the proposal terming it as a "form of Hindu worship".
"Making Surya Namaskar compulsory in schools is a way to promote Hindutva as the origin of Surya Namaskar lies in Hindu God Surya (Sun)," Samajwadi corporator Rais Sheikh alleged.
Sheikh said Muslim parents would stop sending their wards to school if BMC goes ahead with the proposal.
Former minister and state unit Congress vice-president Naseem Khan said the move is "unconstitutional" and will be opposed tooth and nail.
"This is another case of saffronisation of our education system and it is in complete contravention of fundamental rights prescribed in Constitution which allows every citizen to live and educate themselves as per their own religious thoughts," he said.
Questioning the timing of the proposal, Khan said, "Since BMC elections are near and sensing their defeat, they (Sena and BJP) have now played this saffronisation card for political gains, which could have very unwarranted consequences. Why didn't Sena and BJP combine, which has been ruling the BMC for last 20 years, bring the proposal earlier?"
A number of Muslim bodies and their representatives, including Mohammad Saeed Noorie, the founder of Raza Academy and Noorie Mehfil, met Khan separately and apprised him about the reaction in the community against the move.
"Muslims, Jain, Christians, Dalits..all are dismayed by this act of imposing Surya Namaskars and chief minister should take a serious note of it and undo it," Khan demanded.
BMC runs 1,188 primary and 49 secondary schools in Mumbai. This includes nearly 400 Urdu-medium schools. About 4.85 lakh students study in primary schools while another 55,000 study in secondary schools.
The proposal passed by the House of the civic body, will now be sent to Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta who will take a final call on the issue.
Defending the move, BJP corporator Dilip Patel said, "Now yoga has been internationally accepted as the best form of exercise. Bringing yoga into the religious ambit is a political tactic by opposition parties".
Another BJP corporator said that "Surya Namaskar is a form of meditation, and if practised regularly, it will help children progress, both mentally and physically".