Ban on Bhagwad Geeta : Unite for Protest Against Russia

Published: Monday, Dec 19,2011, 14:02 IST
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Devotees in Tomsk, Siberia, are currently in court fighting an attempt by the Russian government’s Federal Security Service (FSB) to prove that Bhagavad-gita is an extremist literature that should be banned. It all began in May 2010, when an officer of the Tomsk FSB division approached Sergey S. Avanesov, the dean of the philosophy department at Tomsk University, and asked him for his “expert assessment” of the Bhagavad-gita. Avanesov also teaches at the Russian Orthodox Church’s Tomsk Seminary and in 2009, when the new patriarch was elected, he was one of the four representatives of the Tomsk diocese at the Church’s Council.

“It’s clear that the attempt to ban Bhagavad-gita is an effort to establish the religious monopoly of the Russian Orthodox Church,” comments Vackresvari Dzyubenko, a concerned Russian devotee living in Mayapur, India.

From May until October 2010, Avanesov and two other professors at Tomsk University worked on their assessment of the Bhagavad-gita. Then in June 2011 a public prosecutor named Viktor Fedotov—once again on the request of the FSB—sent an application to the Leninskiy district court in Tomsk, asking to declare the third Russian edition of Bhagavad Gita As It Is an extremist literature. During the hearings that followed, it became clear that the prosecutors had no objective proof for their case. “Fedotov failed to answer the simple question, ‘Who will become inimical, and towards whom, after reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is?’” says Akincana Vitta Dasa of the North European BBT, publishers of the Gita. “And when two Orthodox Christian scholars were interviewed in court, even they answered explicitly that there were no extremist ideas in Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

After three hearings, on August 12th, August 18th, and August 29th to 30th of this year, the court found Avanesov’s team unqualified and the results of their examinations inconclusive. The court has now called for three other “experts” from the University of Kemerovo, another Siberian city, to make their own psychological, religious, and linguistic assessment of the Gita. In response, ISKCON’s legal team, including ISKCON Tomsk’s lawyer Alexander Shahov, and ISKCON Russia’s head lawyer Maha-Balarama Dasa, suggested that the assessment be carried out by more qualified professors in Moscow or Ekaterinburg. Their request, however, was denied.

While such prosecution of devotees by the government is a very real concern should the Bhagavad-gita be declared extremist literature, the court case has elicited the support of the media and of local and international politicians. Various democratic freedom fighters have written in favor of ISKCON and the Bhagavad-gita, including Former World Chess Champion and current political activist Garry Kasparov. Public support of ISKCON is also at an all-time high as a result of the court case.

Meanwhile, a court in Siberia's Tomsk city is set to deliver its final verdict today, December 19th, in a case filed by state prosecutors. Parliament also saw this issue raised when angry MPs asked what the Congress led UPA government was doing on this issue. It is noteworthy that PM Manmohan Singh was in Russia for 3 days recently and was expected to raise and settle this issue, but that didn't happen. A billion plus Hindus await the court verdict but the very instance of Bhagwad Geeta being taken to court is a shame for the entire Hindu community and also speaks about the flagrant attempt of Russian orthodox church to eliminate all other religions.

Register your protest at:

Russian Embassy in Delhi, India
Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 110021
Phone : +91 11 26873799; 26889160; 26873802; 26110640/41/42
Fax : +91 11 26876823
E-mail : emb@rusembassy.in, indrusem@del2.vsnl.net.in, indconru@del2.vsnl.net.in, rusintro@nob.vsnl.net.in

Russian Embassy in Mumbai, India
42, L. Jagmohandas Marg (Old Nepean Sea Road),
"Palm Beach", Mumbai - 400 036
Phone : +91 22 23633627, 23633628
Fax : +91 22 2363-04-03
E-mail : consul@mtnl.net.in

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