Chanting Om on Yoga Day not compulsory, but NDTV suggests the opposite

International Yoga Day is celebrated annually on June 21 and was declared to be internationally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 11, 2014. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his UN Address suggested the date of June 21. A total of 175 nations co-sponsored the resolution and had the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA Resolution of such nature.

Once again this year, the Government got into action to celebrate World Yoga Day, but another controversy erupted. There were some reports in the media that the Government had made chanting of the words “Om” and some mantras from the Rigveda “compulsory”. The reports claimed that a similar proposal last year created an uproar, requiring a clarification from the Centre that chanting ‘Om’ is not compulsory.

Yesterday too, by 5 pm in the evening, media carried reports that the Government had clarified that no such chanting was compulsory. AYUSH Ministry Joint Secretary Anil Kumar Ganeriwala said:

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“There is no compulsion to chant ‘Om’ before the yoga session. It is completely voluntary and one can remain silent. No one will object,”

In spite of this clarification, NDTV scheduled a prime-time debate: ‘Om’ Chants In Yoga Day Protocol: BJP’s Mantra Of Controversy? at 8.30 pm, hosted by Vishnu Som. A few minutes into the debate, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra interjected out of turn, trying to put the facts on record and asked Vishnu Som to read the circular. Som then said: “I am looking at the circular, it doesn’t make anything compulsory, but it suggests…” Patra asked him to show him the place where it is said “Om” is made compulsory. Vishnu Som repeatedly pleaded saying “I have not said that, I have not said that, I have not said that at all”.

At this stage, Patra showed him the common yoga protocol circular for both 2015 and 2016. We present a screenshot of the same here:

Yoga day document
The government circular

Patra read out the first line which made it clear that the words used are prayer “or” a prayerful mood, and claimed that these are the exact same words from last year. Vishnu Som now re-confirmed that “its not compulsory but its a recommendation”.

Patra also explained that the guidelines were asked to be framed by Yoga experts and they said that words like Om should not be dropped, but since India is a secular country, the Government decided to make such words voluntary and not compulsory.

So within the first 5 minutes of the debate, the entire issue had been sorted out. The anchor had also agreed to the facts pointed out. But it seems someone in NDTV had not quite agreed as yet, because the ticker which kept flashing had these messages:

NDTV's misleading tickers
NDTV’s misleading messages on the ticker

So why was NDTV indulging in double speak? The anchor specifically agreed multiple times that no mantras were mandatory, yet the program he hosted said something else!

As if this wasn’t enough, the same topic was again put up for debate in the show ‘Left Right and Centre’ at 9.30pm with Nidhi Razdan:

Left Right and Centre
Left Right and Centre

The show again perpetuated the same point which was already settled in the earlier debate. In this debate, no one even touched on the point that the chants were voluntary. And again the tickers were misleading:

Misleading tickers
Misleading tickers again

One wonders from where this misinterpretation of English words starts and why it is allowed to perpetuate without basic fact check and even after clarifications are made by the Government.

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