France has always taken pride in its dedication to secularism and religious freedom as outlined in the principle of laïcité. However upon inspection of the nation’s treatment of religious groups particularly those linked to Hinduism and yoga practices, a troubling pattern of intolerance and bias emerges.

A report[i] by CAP LC (Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience) has brought to light Frances concerning stance towards these practices. The report, titled “Spirituality, Yoga and France; Finding a Balance ” outlines how the government has attempted to marginalize and stifle the practice of yoga and other movements inspired by Hinduism.

One highlighted case, in the report involves Neelam Makhija[ii], who was mistakenly identified as an ” guru” and detained for two months without cause. This unjust incident underscores the repercussions that may result from Frances efforts to regulate and restrict expressions of spiritual beliefs that diverge from norms. The report, from CAP LC also highlights the concerning actions taken by UNADFI (Union Nationale des Associations de Défense des Familles et de l’Individu) an organization against sects, which has publicly cautioned against practicing yoga on the International Day of Yoga[iii] an event initiated by the Prime Minister to honor this ancient tradition. Such rhetoric and attempts to dissuade the public from participating in yoga activities indicate a seated distrust and animosity towards these spiritual customs.

The repercussions of this stigmatization policy go beyond yoga practitioners. The accounts of statements issued by CAP LC regarding Cyrille Adam[iv], a citizen who faced detention and questioning due to his association with yoga and Hindu influenced practices demonstrate the broader impact on the justice system and law enforcement.

As per CAP LCs reports the authorities handling of these movements has resulted in a distortion of legal principles with law enforcement officials and judiciary often acting based on bias and misinformation rather, than solid evidence.

The situation involving Cyrille Adam, who was held and interrogated without any reasons, for suspicion sheds light on how the states prejudices against these minority groups can impact the criminal justice system.

The difficulties encountered by the Yoga Misa school in France offer insights into how authorities try to suppress these practices. Reports from Human Rights Without Frontiers[v] describe police raids on the school, where practitioners were reportedly mistreated and detained without justification – a violation of their basic rights to practice religion and associate freely. These incidents highlight a trend of intolerance and bias that goes beyond the specific cases mentioned in various accounts.

The presence of organizations like Miviludes (Inter Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Aberrations) and UNADFI which contribute to promoting the narrative of “sectarian aberrations ” indicates that Frances stance, on these spiritual beliefs is deeply influenced by cultural biases that perceive them as a threat to societal harmony.

According to a Miviludes[vi] member the idea of ” aberrations” is described as being uniquely French. Has faced criticism, from international bodies for its potential violation of basic human rights and freedoms. The ongoing influence of this concept on government policies towards Hindu and yoga followers raises concerns about the country’s dedication to diversity and equal treatment under the law.

Various sources like the CAP LC report, the Neelam Makhija case, UNADFI statements, the Cyrille Adam case and accounts from Yoga Misa school highlight a trend where the state appears ready to target and suppress religious minorities that do not align with mainstream beliefs using legal and judicial means.

These developments prompt questions about freedom in France and whether the principle of laïcité is being misused to marginalize specific faiths and spiritual practices. As a nation that values rights and democracy France must address the gap, between its professed ideals. The reality faced by minority religious groups especially those linked to Hinduism and yoga.

The international community should monitor the situation closely[vii]. Ensure that France upholds its obligations under human rights law. It’s important not to turn an eye to the targeting and persecution of religious and spiritual groups dismissing it as an internal matter. The fundamental rights, to freedom of religion, belief and expression should be respected universally. France should be held accountable like any other democratic nation.









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