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Disappointed yoga fans

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the International Yoga Day on Sunday morning at India Gate, several hundred yoga fans were denied access to the venue as they lacked the government-sponsored invitation cards.

“What is this?” said C.K.S. Shanmugasundaram, a Yoga consultant who had come from Tamil Nadu to participate in the inaugural ceremony. “I’m sorry to say that this is against the spirit of yoga. They want to make it international but here at the national level they are discriminatory toward general public.”

After a 36-hour train journey, Mr. Shanmugasundaram arrived in Delhi on Saturday morning. He spent a night with his friend in Preet Vihar, thinking that next morning he would get a chance to meditate at India Gate along with yoga stalwarts like Baba Ramdev.

“Look at that,” he said, pointing at a group of people pleading the police to let them cross the barricade. They [the government] made a fool out of us.”

Mr. Shanmugasundaram went to Tilak Marg police station to file a complaint against the Ministry of Ayush, which sent him a series of text messages about the significance of yoga in everyday life. “The Ministry encouraged me to come here but now I feel cheated.”

By 7.00 a.m., the crowd of middle class Indians, who came by the first metro of the day, increased. Young boys and girls in yoga pants, older couples in kurta-pyjamas and students from far off places like Kanpur and Allahabad, had come to perform yoga with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Unable to tackle the police, they spread newspaper sheets on the road and sat with a yoga pose. Some of them made jokes about being duped by the government while others took pictures against the backdrop of India Gate. The police formed a human chain to keep the crowd in limits. Just a kilometre away were the high-profile participants, who were bending and stretching in white shirts and black trousers.

Naval Vats, 31, an advertising consultant from East Delhi, watched them from a distance with a yoga mat clutched under his arm. “I see double standards here,” said Mr. Vats. “Prime Minister Modi took a selfie on the banks of Seine River in Paris while common people walked behind him. In India he is keeping his own people away from him.”

By 8.00 a.m., people gave up on the idea of entering the main venue and walked back to Pragati Maidan metro station. Outside the subway, a cluster of bicycle rickshaws had assembled for the day. The rickshaw pullers ate cucumbers as they waited for passengers. They barely seem to care about yoga. “It’s a good thing,” said Sham Lal, 31, a rickshaw puller from Daryagunj. “But it’s not for me. I work with my body all day so I don’t need yoga.”

Hearing Lal talking about yoga, Miklesh Rai, another rickshaw puller, burst into a giggle. “Traffic police blocks all the entry points to Jama Masjid,” said Rai. “So we have to go round and round to reach the nearest spot. Isn’t that yoga for us?”
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