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The Economist explains: Why India's prime minister devotes such energy to yoga

AT DAWN on June 21st more than 35,000 Indians, from portly civil servants to skinny schoolchildren, embarked on a synchronised, 35-minute display of yoga in central New Delhi. It was an impressive turnout for a Sunday morning but perhaps not surprising. Leading the movements was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, since convincing the UN in December to designate an International Day of Yoga, pushed the event mercilessly. Memorandums were sent to civil servants warning them that if they failed to take their asanas seriously they risked jeopardising a longed-for entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Across India, schoolchildren have been practising the upward-facing dog for weeks. The foreign ministry has flown yoga teachers to many of the 192 countries taking part. For a leader with a lengthy programme of economic reforms upon which he has barely embarked, Mr Modi’s focus on his mega-yoga party might require some explanation.The event invited charges of something worse than whimsy. Muslim activists complained that the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP)’s promotion of yoga, which has its roots in the ancient religious practices that were gathered up into Hinduism, is an expression of Hindutva, an ideology which sees India as an exclusively Hindu nation. A Muslim group has filed a case against the northern state of Rajasthan for requiring students to attend yoga …

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