Moscow: Bhagavad Gita,
one of the holiest Hindu scriptures, is facing a legal ban and the
prospect of being branded as "an extremist" literature across
Russia. A court in Siberia's Tomsk city is set to deliver its
final verdict Monday in a case filed by state prosecutors.
The final pronouncement in the case will come two days after
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his Dec 15-17 official
visit for a bilateral summit with Russian President Dmitry
Medvedev consolidated bilateral trade and strategic ties and
The case, which has been going on in Tomsk court since June, seeks
ban on a Russian translation of "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" written
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
It also wants the Hindu religious text banned in Russia and
declared as a literature spreading "social discord", its
distribution on Russian soil rendered illegal.
In view of the case, Indians settled in Moscow, numbering about
15,000, and followers of the ISKCON religious movement here have
appealed to Manmohan Singh and his government to intervene
diplomatically to resolve the issue in favour of the scripture, an
important part of Indian epic Mahabharata written by sage Ved Vyas.
The ISKCON followers in Russia have also written a letter to the
Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi, calling for immediate
intervention, lest the religious freedom of Hindus living here be
"The case is coming up for a final verdict on Monday in Tomsk
court. We want all efforts from the Indian government to protect
the religious rights of Hindus in Russia," Sadhu Priya Das of
ISKCON and a devotee of a 40-year-old Krishna temple in central
Moscow, told IANS.
The court, which took up the case filed by the state prosecutors,
had referred the book to the Tomsk State University for "an
expert" examination Oct 25.
But Hindu groups in Russia, particularly followers of ISKCON, say
the university was not qualified as it lacked Indologists who
study the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the
The Hindus pleaded with the court that the case was inspired by
religious bias and intolerance from a "majority religious group in
Russia", and have sought that their rights to practice their
religious beliefs be upheld.
The prosecutor's case also seeks to ban the preaching of
Prabhupada and ISKCON's religious beliefs, claiming these were
"extremist" in nature and preached "hatred" of other religious
"They have not just tried to get the Bhagavad Gita banned, but
also brand our religious beliefs and preaching as extremist," Das
The ISKCON devotees have taken up the matter with the Indian
embassy in Moscow too for an early diplomatic intervention before
things get worse and the court passes an adverse verdict banning
the Bhagavad Gita and Krishna consciousness teachings.
In the Nov 1 letter addressed to Principal Secretary to the Prime
Minister Pulok Chatterji, ISKCON's New Delhi branch Governing Body
Commissioner Gopal Krishna Goswami, said the prosecutor's
affidavit claims Lord Krishna "is evil and not conforming to
Christian religious view".
Goswami also urged Manmohan Singh to accord priority to the matter
during his Moscow stay and take it up with the Russian
Indian diplomatic corps officials at the embassy here, who were
unwilling to be named, told IANS that they have been following up
the case since the time it was brought to their notice earlier
They had also taken up the matter at the appropriate levels in the
Russian government to get the case either withdrawn or get the
defence to fight the case to obtain a favourable verdict.
Officials at the Indian Prime Minister's Office, who were part of
the Indian delegation accompanying Manmohan Singh, confirmed to
IANS the case and the letter they received from ISKCON in this
"This matter is receiving the highest attention and the Indian
embassy officials in Moscow have been instructed to follow up the
case with the Russian authorities," they said.
(N.C. Bipindra can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)