Narendra Modi does yoga in New York as US state visit gets under way

  jennifer caffelle   5900   22 Jun, 2023 

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Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has performed yoga poses ranging from cobra to corpse at the UN headquarters as he began the public portion of his US visit. On the UN’s north lawn, Modi bowed at a statue of the assassinated Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi before saying yoga was an all-ages, portable practice accessible to all faiths and cultures. “It is a very old tradition, but like all ancient Indian traditions, it is also living and dynamic,” Modi said. “Yoga is truly universal.” Taking his spot on a mat with a thousand or more others, the 72-year-old Modi participated over the next 35 minutes in breathing exercises, meditation, backbends and other poses – from palm tree to diamond, hare to half-camel, crocodile to stretched-up frog. “It is not just about doing exercise on a mat. Yoga is a way of life,” Modi said. The event honoured the International Day of Yoga, which Modi persuaded the UN to designate as an annual observance. This year’s version set a Guinness world record for most nationalities – 135 – at a yoga lesson. It drew actor Richard Gere; the New York mayor, Eric Adams; and the UN general assembly president, Csaba K?rsi, among others. As the event went on, demonstrators shouted from across the street. About 200 Modi supporters and 50 critics were kept apart by barriers and watched by police. Modi has faced criticism at home over legislation that fast-tracks citizenship for some migrants but excludes Muslims; a rise in violence against Muslims and other religious minorities by Hindu nationalists; and the recent conviction of India’s top opposition leader, Rahul Gandhi, for mocking Modi’s surname. The US state department in its latest report on religious freedom pointed to attacks on minorities in India and to statements viewed as inflammatory from members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party. Modi is scheduled to attend a state dinner with Joe Biden, the US president, and the first lady, Jill Biden, on Thursday night, after addressing Congress and holding a rare press conference with Biden. Modi has not addressed a single press conference in India since becoming prime minister about nine years ago. In May 2019, he attended a press conference but did not take questions. Plant-based courses of millet, stuffed mushrooms and strawberry shortcake are on the menu of Thursday’s White House state dinner. Modi is a vegetarian.

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