The deliberations of a court in one of the oldest towns in the Siberian region of Russia, Tomsk has drawn the attention and anger of the Indian polity. In a move, which some say symbolises the rise of the religious right in Russia, State prosecutors in Tomsk are arguing that a translated version of the Bhagwad Gita is an “extremist religious” text which sows discord, a book whose distribution should be banned since the text is insulting towards “non-believers” according to a Reuters report.
The deliberations of a court in one of the oldest towns in the Siberian region of Russia, Tomsk has drawn the attention and anger of the Indian polity. In a move, which some say symbolises the rise of the religious right in Russia, State prosecutors in Tomsk are arguing that a translated version of the Bhagwad Gita is an “extremist religious” text which sows discord, a book whose distribution should be banned since the text is insulting towards “non-believers” according to a Rueters report.
Meanwhile in India, the country's parliamentarians were so angered with this development that they forced the adjournment of Lok Sabha proceedings twice on Monday. The issue was first raised by BJD MP Bhartruhari Mahtab during Question Hour and soon resulted in parliamentarians filling the well of the house, leaving speark Meira Kumar with little option but to adjourn proceedings till 2 p.m. The disruptions began once again shortly after lunch, following which the proceedings were further adjourned till 4 p.m.
Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (“ISKON”) have been particularly vehement in their protests against the attempted ban, seeing tahe trial as a deliberate attempt by the Russian Orthodox church to limit their activities. The concerned book is a Russian translation of “Bhagwad Gita As It Is” written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKON.
The trial has resulted in hectic relays between senior officials of India and Russia with the Indian Ambassador to Russia, Ajai Malhotra, confirming that the Indian embassy in Moscow has now taken up the matter with the Russian government. The Indian External Affair's Minister, SM Krishna has labelled the move to ban the Gita as “patently absurd”. Meanwhile, the Russian Ambassador to India, Alexander M Kadakin said that it was “strange” that such incidents were unfolding in the Siberia, noting that Tomsk was known for its religious tolerance.
The Russian court has deferred its verdict to the December 28, 2011 accepting a last minute plea to consider the opinions of the Russian Ombudsman on Human Rights in Tomsk Region and of Indologists from Moscow and St Petersburg. According to an IBN news report, the court has given the human rights panel twenty-four hours to provide its deposition.
It is pertinent to note that Vladmir Lukin, who was reappointed as Russia's official human rights ombudsman in 2009, had earlier stated that that it was “unacceptable” to seek a ban on “Bhagwad Gita As It Is” according to a DNA News report. In fact, the Russian court had earlier sought the opinion of the Tomsk State University, a move critcised as meaningless by some since the university lacks experts on Indian culture, language and literature. Closer home, a PIL (Dr. Vijay Dave & Anr v Union of India & Ors) has been filed by one Vijay Dave and Rasendu Nanavat in the High Court of Mumbai . As the IBN Live report states, the Petitioner's advocates, M I Sethna and Advait Sethna have contended that any attempt to ban the Gita would have far-reaching implications on a global scale and that the Indian government must clarify its stance on this issue. The PIL, which was mentioned in the Chief Justice's court on Monday was directed to be listed today.
It is perplexing that this matter has just recently begun to receive media attention, given the fact that the case was initiated as far back as in June this year. Be that as it may, all eyes are now on December 28 when the final outcome shall be known.