VARANASI/LUCKNOW: Firebrand BJP leader Yogi Adityanath has kicked up another controversy when he said that those opposing 'Surya namaskar' should "drown in the sea" in remarks that came amid protests by Muslim groups over the drill during the Yoga Day on June 21.
The RSS also reacted critically to objections to the Yoga drill.
The comments made by Adityanath, a Gorakhpur MP, at an event in Prime Minister Narenda Modi's Lok Sabha constituency in Varanasi were today slammed by the Opposition which accused him of trying to create a "communal divide".
"The people who are opposing this(yoga and surya namaskar) do not believe in the concept of a nation," RSS ideologue M G Vaidya said.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh sought to play down the Yoga Day controversy, saying participation is completely voluntary and that it should not be linked to caste, creed or religion.
With certain minority groups protesting against inclusion of 'Surya namaskar' exercise during the June 21 International Yoga Day celebrations, Adityanath said, "Sun is the source of life giving energy. Whoever thinks Sun is communal, I would like to humbly request them to drown themselves in the sea or they should stay in a dark cell."
"Sun God has never deprived anyone of its light based on caste, creed or religion. Despite that if they are calling sun communal, I feel amused at their mindset," he said.
"And my request to them would be that they should not take the sunlight or even its warmth," the saffron-clad leader, who is known for courting controversy with his inflammatory remarks, said yesterday.
Adityanath's remarks came after the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board said that it will move the Supreme Court against inclusion of Surya namaskar and Yoga in schools.
"On International Yoga Day on June 21, there is no compulsion for doing Yoga. Those who want can do it and those who do not want may not... But we appeal that maximum people should participate on Yoga Day. A booklet has been released on what to do on that day," Rajnath Singh told reporters in Lucknow.
"I only want to say that Yoga should not be related to any caste, creed and religion. It's good for mental and physical health."
Congress and Samajwadi Party hit out at Adityanath, saying he was trying to create a communal divide, and stressed that nobody can force their own belief system on any citizen.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah mocked at Adityanath's remarks, saying many people "will have to pack" their bags.
Congress leader Rita Bahuguna said, "Every time he (Adityanath) speaks, he spits venom. He tries to create a communal divide by giving communal statements. What is the reason to say that those who don't want to do this should leave the country?
SP's Gaurav Bhatia recalled that the Prime Minister had recently told his partymen that such statements will not be tolerated.
Reacting to Adityanath's remarks, Omar said on Twitter, "The solution to overcrowding in India since so many of us will have to pack our bags. Ek teer do shikar (killing two birds with one stone)."