West Bengal on Sunday joined the rest of the world in celebrating International Yoga Day with people cutting across age and gender performing exercises even as three Union ministers participated in events across the state to mark the UN-designated day.
The celebration was kicked off by Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad at an event organised by Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex in Kolkata at 6.30 am.
Denying that yoga was a part of Hinduism, he said: “Yoga is not a symbol of any particular faith, it is not a symbol of any particular path. It is a symbol of mankind, peace and brotherhood. It is a symbol of the culture, heritage of our country. Yoga is for moral values and for the well being of the mankind regardless of its community, faith or nationality.”
“This is why when Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed that June 21 should be observed as International Yoga Day, over 190 countries across the world accepted it. And among those, nearly 44 are Islamic countries… It is wonderful to see that so many turning up today in spite of the downpour,” he added.
Claiming that Pakistan should also take up the practice of yoga as it will “bring peace”, Prasad said: “Yoga is being practiced in New York, London, China and in Islamic countries. Pakistan too had said that it will practice yoga but pulled out at the last moment. I urge them to consider yoga, as it will bring peace. I don’t know why Pakistan didn’t do it.”
“I had always said that our government wants a good relationship with Pakistan. It had been their decision. If they had done it, there would have been less tension in Pakistan,” Prasad added.
Asked about the resistance to observing International Yoga Day in Bengal, he said: “India is a democracy. Those who want resist it, I wish them good luck but I think the entire country and the entire world is standing with yoga.”
The early morning shower could not dampen the spirit of about 8,000 people who turned up for the event at SAI complex. Prasad also took part in the exercises and ‘pranayams’. Utpal Saha, state in-charge of Pathanjali Yoga Peeth led the demonstration.
BJP MLA Shamik Bhattacharya and other prominent leaders of the state were present at the occasion.