Oct 15, 2016 05:49 PM IST | Source:

JNUAC member slams minister for politicising yoga course denial

Renowned scholar and JNUAC member HS Shivaprakash said he himself was a practitioner of Yoga and a disciple of legendary yoga gurus like Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Swami Vishnudevananda.

A top JNU Academic Council (JNUAC) member has slammed Union minister for culture, Mahesh Sharma for “politicizing” the university’s decision to junk a course on Yoga and said the “shoddy” proposal put forward by the Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies (SCSS) was rejected purely on academic grounds.

Renowned scholar and JNUAC member HS Shivaprakash said he himself was a practitioner of Yoga and a disciple of legendary yoga gurus like Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Swami Vishnudevananda.

“Naturally, I was thrilled when I heard JNU was going to introduce a course on Yoga. But as I went through the proposal put up by SCSS, I was appalled,” he said.

“The course material was based on only two texts. The authors of the course seemed to know nothing more about Yoga than a smattering of Patanjali Yoga. There was not a single hint of Buddhist, Jain, Shaiva, Shaktha, Vaishnava and Tantrik versions of yoga which developed in many directions post Patanjali. The course proposed on Indian culture was equally shallow,” Shivprakash said.

The JNUAC move to reject the short-term Yoga course had kicked up a row with the Union culture minister pitching in accusing the university – often referred to as a Left bastion – of playing politics with the ancient Indian tradition. “We are here for the people who support yoga... When we talk of yoga, everybody should rise above politics,” minister Mahesh Sharma said a few days ago.

Shivaprakash said the minister shouldn’t have made that accusation without verifying facts, and accused the Sanskrit department of “misrepresenting facts”.

“When one of the highest political figures like the minister for culture issues a statement based on misinformation from aggrieved parties, I think it is my duty as a senior faculty of JNU and Member of Academic Council to clear the smog that envelops the issue in question. I am sure that the Vice Chancellor of JNU, who headed the meeting on the afternoon of July 1, 2016, and other truthful members will bear me out. It is incontrovertibly true that the courses proposed by SCSS was rejected by majority in AC. However the reason was not 'political' as representatives of SCSS have us believe. It was purely academic,” he said.

Minister Mahesh Sharma refused to react to Shivaprakash’s allegations.

Professor Girish Nath Jha, chairperson of Special Centre for Sanskrit Studies (SCSS), dismissed Shivaprakash’s claims. “The Academic Council has rejected it thrice. I am sure it has everything to do with ideology and nothing to do with merit of our proposal. They always have a problem with Sanskrit language, Indian ideology, Indian culture and other things. I don’t agree that our proposal was not good,” he told News18.

Explaining what happened at the Academic Council (AC) meeting, Professor Jha said three courses – Computational Linguistics, Indian Culture and Yoga Philosophy – were put up for approval.

“They had no objections to first one. When the matter came to the other two, many in the AC objected. Some even said that there is nothing called Indian Culture, we have only cultures. Even about Yoga, some said that it was born in China. We have proof that Yoga is Indian and was born in India. I don’t know what these people have against India and Indian culture. When other departments decide their curriculum, they don’t consult Sanskrit department. But when Sanskrit departments wants to do something everyone jumps into it with their own suggestions”.

Shivaprakash, a renowned Kannada author and winner of Kendra Sahitya Academy and Kendra Sangeet, Natak Academy Awards, said the SCSS tried to “push through” the courses on Yoga and Indian Culture in the last two JNUAC meetings unsuccessfully.

“They were given suggestions to present the course again after fleshing it out to make it more comprehensive. SCSS would do nothing of the kind. They had assumed that they are laws unto themselves who did not need to heed suggestions of their inferior colleagues,” he said.

Shivaprakash also rubbished allegations that the Yoga and culture courses were rejected by Left-leaning academicains of JNUAC.

“When the courses were proposed again on July 7 for the the third time, the first objector was Professor Vijaya Ramaswami, herself a fine Sanskritist and a great scholar on Bhakti. I spoke next highlighting the objections mentioned in previous para. Professor Kunal Chakravarti who has been teaching Puranik traditions for decades was the next to object. Convinced by the objectivity and depth of critics, the Vice Chancellor wanted the opinion of all members.

Majority of them critiqued the course not for its political content but for its academic shoddiness. It is not true that course was rejected by the diehards of the Left. Neither Prof Ramaswami nor I represent that spectrum. It is true that the more members of the Left wanted the course redone not because of their different political vantage points but because they were convinced by our response as was the Vice Chancellor,” he said.

Vijaya Ramaswamy and Kunal Chakrabarty were not available to corroborate Shivaprakash’s claims.

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