On the suggestion of Narendra Modi, the UN General Assembly declared 21 June to be the International Yoga Day. “By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change,” he said. And this even seemed to come to fruition, according to Kiran Bedi’s tweet, which was subsequently thoroughly mocked for the implication of Yoga Day causing rain in Delhi.
Miracle of collective chant of Shanti,Shanti,Shanti, by millions brings pre-monsoon showers in Delhi. Reduces heat and cools even the trees
— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) June 21, 2015
Of course amidst this, a much larger issue regarding Yoga Day was taking place in Kashmir University, specifically regarding its apparent ‘mandatory’ nature of participation. Even as “Jammu and Kashmir was set to become the yoga capital of India”, a scholar from the English department, Muzamil Farooq Dar, a resident of Gandibagh-Kakapora, Pulwama, was arrested during the night of 23rd June. The police conducted a nocturnal raid on his residence, due to his alleged leadership role in opposing Yoga Day celebrations on campus on the 20th of June. Some reports claim several students have been taken into custody. Hazratbal Superintendent of Police Rayees Bhat denied that the student had been detained by the police. “We have no information on the matter. Our men have not arrested any student,” he said. Social media reacted strongly to the news, with comics such as this one.
Following the arrest, a massive spate of demonstrations by the students broke out in solidarity—which led to the cancellation of the Yoga Day event—and have boycotted their classes and braved the rain to protest “police highhandedness”, demanding his immediate release.
Eyewitnesses reported that hundreds of students participated in the boycott, which led to a halt in functioning of multiple departments. The administration block was locked up, trapping the officials inside until five pm, when the police were able to break through. “KU has failed to ensure safety to its students,” one of the protestors involved in the sit-in protest was reported as saying. Many of the students later went on a hunger strike, holding placards which read “fasting till death”. National Conference president Omar Abdullah took to twitter to express his surprise on the issue.
Seriously? An anti-yoga protest is now a jail-able offence? Mufti truly is more loyal than the king!!!! https://t.co/RbF4VVxD7k
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) June 24, 2015
“The arrest of innocent Muzamil would jeopardize his career and his family had to suffer because of the harassment,” said the protesting students, and it remains to be seen how this issue might be resolved. Mass condemnation has followed this news, but if opposing yoga can be grounds for arrest in India, or for the involvement of police at all, one has to wonder what the next step might be.