Sunday, June 28, 2015

Relentless propaganda

Pankaj Sharma
22 June 2015, New Delhi,

By surreptitiously co-opting an ancient tradition, the Modi government is doing what it does best.

Is it not a strange coincidence that Prime Minister Narendra Modi manages to persuade the United Nations to declare June 21 as International Yoga Day? Modi told the UN that Yoga is an invaluable gift from India’s ancient tradition to mankind. Yoga embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness within you, the world, and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating a global consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day. While suggesting 21 June Modi argued that this is the day of Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere , which holds special significance in many parts of the world.

The United Nations accepted Modi’s suggestion on 11 December 2014 and proclaimed June 21 as International Yoga Day by its resolution 69/131. The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health.” In a statement UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon also pointed out the global benefits of Yoga: “Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress.” He also said, “By proclaiming June 21 as the International Day of Yoga, the General Assembly has recognized the holistic benefits of this timeless practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the United Nations.”

It is true that Summer Solstice commonly happens on 21 June, but it sometimes happen on 20 or 22 June too. For instance, in 2008 and 2012 it happened on 20 June and will also happen on this day in 2016 and 2020. In 20thcentury, Summer Solstice used to happen on 22 June and it will normally happen on 20 June after we reach to the half mark of the 21st century in 2050. Therefore, there are reasons to believe that the day of Summer Solstice could not have been the only reason for Narendra Modi to suggest 21 June to mark as the International Yoga Day.

What could be the other reason? Let me take you to the historical backdrop which might have been working as an irritant for Sangh Parivar. On June 27 2007, United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday as International Day of Non-Violence. The resolution established the commemoration, the International Day is an occasion to “disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness”. The resolution reaffirms “the universal relevance of the principle of non-violence” and the desire “to secure a culture of peace, tolerance, understanding and non-violence”. India had introduced the resolution in the General Assembly on behalf of 140 co-sponsors on 15 June which was adopted in two weeks time.

The UN Secretary General, while declaring 2 October to be celebrated as International Day of Non-violence worldwide every year, said, “The United Nations was created in the hope that humanity could not only end wars, it could eventually make them unnecessary.  Our founders hoped that the Organization could help stop violence by spreading a culture of peace, promoting tolerance and advancing human dignity. These ideas sum up the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi, whose birthday we celebrate today.  His peaceful struggles against unjust regimes in South Africa and India captured the world’s imagination.  And his incorporation of non-violence into everyday life inspired countless individuals to lead better, more meaningful lives. ‘Non-violence is the first article of my faith.  

It is also the last article of my creed,’ was the Mahatma’s response when charged with agitation against the State in 1922. The Mahatma’s inspiration is needed now more than ever.  All around us, we see communities increasingly mired in rising intolerance and cross-cultural tensions.  We see extremist dogma and violent ideologies gaining ground, as the moderate forces retreat. Recently, we have witnessed lethal force being used against unarmed and non-violent marchers who exemplified the very spirit of the Mahatma’s teachings. Today, there is a great need to address these trends and to promote true tolerance and non-violence at every level, from the individual all the way up to the State.”

One of Modi’s agendas is to either undo the things done by previous Congress governments over the years after independence or repackage and re-launch them in a way that they are born the previous day and credit goes to Bharatiya Janata Party government. Modi government has repackaged several schemes and programs after taking over last year. Under the active guidance of Sangh Parivar, Modi government is also trying to replace the established national icons with new ones. The Yoga Day is one such effort.

It is not the Summer Solstice because of which Sangh Parivar’s prime minister wanted 21 June to be declared as International Yoga Day. It is because 21 June is Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh’s founder Sarsanghchalak’s Keshav Baliram Hedgewar’s death anniversary. He died on this day at Nagpur in 1940. After a record show this Sunday, managed with the help of disbursal of crores of Rupees from taxpayer money to RSS affiliated organisations and use of every available resource at government’s command, cheerleaders now will lose no time to propagate that the occasion was a tribute to ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’. A premature announcement of this would have created controversy; therefore Sangh Parivar kept it as a closely guarded secret till the event was over. But, murmurs have already begun and Pracharaks are telling the young cadre that if Congress could make UN announce Gandhi’s birthday as AhimsaDiwas, it is BJP at whose insistence UN announced Hedgewar death anniversary as Yoga Diwas. No matter Hedgewar had anything to do with yoga or not. Narendra Bhai has already shown us that he has amazing techniques of propaganda with him and people can be led to believe anything.

Author is Editor and CEO of News Views India


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