Various political and religious groups on Friday criticized the Jammu and Kashmir administration’s order directing college heads to organize large-scale ‘Surya namaskar’ on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
The event was to be held online on Friday as part of India’s Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations and officials of the Higher Education department did not respond to queries about it.
The Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema, an amalgam of several religious organizations, took strong exception to the order and said the authorities were well aware that Jammu and Kashmir is Muslim-majority and like people from other religions, Muslims will not participate in religious practices of other religions.
“To deliberately force them to do so by issuing directives is mischievous,” it said.
“The 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,” it said in a statement.
“The recent open call to the genocide of Muslims of India at 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,” it alleged.
The amalgam asked the administration to desist from issuing such orders in the future.
Former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — and various political parties also criticized the order.
“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?” Abdullah, the National Conference vice president, wrote on Twitter.
Mehbooba, who is also the PDP president, said the Centre’s “misadventures” aim to collectively “humiliate” Kashmiris.
“GOIs 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,” Mehbooba said in a tweet.
Peoples Conference president Sajad Gani Lone also criticized the directive, saying the administration was undoing what liberal Muslims had earned.
In a series of tweets, Lone said the government will not succeed and the will of the people will eventually prevail.
“Why is the govt so insensitive. Now comes the Surya namaskar episode. I wish the govt of the day understands that along many bloody battles fought in Kashmir — of immense importance was the war between liberal and radicals,” Lone wrote on Twitter.
“And these were not verbose battles. The blood of the Kashmir liberal Muslim was spilled on the streets. The liberals fought to keep the secular liberal traditions of Kashmir alive. They fought the violence. They fought the bullets. The liberals rendered sacrifices,” he said.
Lone said with the ‘Surya namaskar’ directive, the government was “emulating the radicals”.
“We have seen the brute power of the radicals all through the nineties. U will not succeed. The will of the people will eventually prevail,” he said.
Apni Party president Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari also took strong exception to the order and said the educational institutions must be kept aloof from “political maneuvering” and emphasis should be laid on providing quality education to the students.
“Celebrating festivals is an individual choice and the state has no right to interfere in it. However, this recent edict for observing Surya Namaskar in colleges across J-K is undoubtedly a dangerous enterprise that carries serious implications. The administration must stop communalizing the academic atmosphere and should rather focus on the up-gradation of these educational facilities,” he said.
He asked the government to withdraw the controversial order and desist from issuing such arbitrary diktats in the future.