In a hard-fought court case that sought to ban the Bhagavad Gita and brand it “extremist” literature, Hindus in Russia Wednesday scored a major win when a Siberian court threw out the state prosecutors’ plea to ban the sacred text.
During the final hearing in the Leninsky district court of Tomsk city, Federal Judge G.E. Butenko, in a one-line oral order, rejected the petition of the prosecutors, saying he was not “pleased” with their plea to ban the Bhagavad Gita and brand it “extremist” literature, Sadhu Priya Das, a leader of the Russian unit of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon), told over phone from Moscow.
“The court has dismissed the state prosecutors’ case during the hearing today,” Das said, adding that the detailed verdict will be made available only after a week to the Hindus fighting the case.
The court reviewed the state prosecutors’ plea, report of an expert group on the Bhagavad Gita and the Hindus’ arguments against the case, before delivering the verdict, providing Hindus worldwide, and particularly in Russia, reason to rejoice.
The case began in June this year, seeking a ban on Iskcon founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s Russian translation of the Bhagavad Gita. It had caused a political storm in India, with parliament being rocked on two days, after first reported the case.
On the plea from members of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna made a statement in parliament, stating that the Indian government was doing everything possible to protect the Hindus’ rights in Russia.
Hindus in Russia and Krishna devotees, numbering about 50,000 in Iskcon centres in 80 cities, had for long pleaded with the Indian government and the Indian embassy in Moscow to intervene in the matter and to prevent the branding of their religious text as “extremist” literature causing “social discord”.
They had also written to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office, seeking his direct intervention when he visited Moscow Dec 15 – 17 this year for a summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
A day ahead of the verdict, Krishna Tuesday met Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin.
Kadakin had, after the storm in the Indian parliament, called the Siberian court case an act of some “madmen” and that he found it ridiculous to take any religious text, be it Bhagavad Gita, Bible or Quran, to court.
Following the favourable verdict, Hindus in Russia thanked the Siberian court, Russian and Indian governments, the Indian embassy in Moscow and all others who had stood by them during the six-month-long legal battle, Sadhu Priya Das said.