Russian court refuses to ban Bhagvad Gita, followers cheer across the world

via PTI published on December 28, 2011

MOSCOW: A Russian court today rejected a petition, described by India as “patently absurd”, which had sought a ban on a translated version of Bhagvad Gita, bringing cheers to followers here as well as those across the world.

“We have won the case. The judge has rejected the petition,” Sadhu Priya Das of ISKCON, Moscow, who is also Chairman of newly formed Hindu Council of Russia, told PTI.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna welcomed the judgement and thanked the Russian government for its support.

Prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had argued that the Russian translation of “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” promotes “social discord” and hatred towards non-believers.

The text is a combination of the Bhagvad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures, and commentary by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, that is commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON.

The prosecutors had asked the court to include the book on the Russian Federal List of Extremist Materials, which bans more than 1,000 texts including Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and books distributed by the Jehovah’s Witness and Scientology movements.

Reacting to the judgement that came at about 4:30 pm IST, ISKCON spokesman Brajendra Nandan Das told PTI in New Delhi that, “We are very happy”.

ISKCON members have alleged that the Russian Orthodox Church was behind the court case as it wanted to limit their activities.

The case had created a storm back in India and even the Parliamentary proceedings had been affected by it.

Speaking in Parliament, Krishna had said the lawsuit was the work of “ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals.”

He also called the complaint “patently absurd”.

Krishna had summoned the Russian Ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, yesterday and told him that Moscow should provide all possible help to resolve the issue that has been in the court for the last six months.

He had also conveyed to the top Russian diplomat the sensitivities involved with the issue.

Kadakin had assured Krishna that the Russian Government will do all it can within its power.

The trial began in June and was scheduled to conclude on December 19, just after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two-day visit to Russia.

However, officials in Tomsk agreed to hear further testimony from experts and the Russian ombudsman for human rights and postponed the court decision till today.

Russian lawyers Mikahil Fralov and Alexander Sakhav argued strongly against the petition.

The judge, after reviewing the petition from the state prosecutors and the responses against it, dismissed the plea.

The Russian Foreign Ministry had last week insisted that the Tomsk court is not taking issue with core Hindu scripture itself, but rather with the author’s commentary and poor translation in “Bhagavad Gita As It Is.”

“I would like to emphasise that this is not about ‘Bhagavad Gita,’ a religious philosophical poem, which forms part of the great Indian epic Mahabharata and is one of the most famous pieces of the ancient Hindu literature,” ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich had said at a briefing last week here, adding that the book was first published in Russian in 1788.

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