Political parties on Thursday objected to a directive of the Jammu and Kashmir government asking teachers and students to perform surya namaskar (sun salutations) on the festival of Makar Sankranti.

The order has been issued by the Jammu and Kashmir government’s Higher Education Department. It said that the Union government has “desired that on the occasion a large scale virtual Surya Namaskar be organised under Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations”.

The order asked colleges to ensure that all faculty members and students actively participate in the event.

This is the first time that students in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir have been asked to perform surya namaskar, according to NDTV. Several Muslims object to performing the salutations as they consider them to be against the tenets of their faith.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah objected to the order on Twitter.

“GOIs [Government of India’s] PR misadventures aim to demean and collectively humiliate Kashmiris,” Mufti said. “Forcing students and staff to perform suryanamaskars by issuing orders despite their obvious discomfort with imposition of something laden with religious connotations gives an insight into their communal mindset.”

Abdullah said that celebrating the festival of Makar Sankranti was a personal choice, and asked whether the Bharatiya Janata Party would be happy if non-Muslim students were ordered to celebrate Eid.

Peoples Conference leader Sajad Lone remarked that radical elements from all religions share the traits of intolerance, hegemony and monopoly on morality. “And Inshallah both have a shared destiny to fail,” he said.