Russian scientists urge Medvedev and Putin to take the Bhagavad Gita trial under their personal control March 19, 2012
A group of renowned Russian scientists representing leading Russian research organisations and universities has addressed an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in connection with the ongoing trial of “Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, a revered Hindu scripture, in the Russian city of Tomsk.
Copies of the letter have been sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia, Ministry of Justice of Russia, Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, the Public Chamber and selected Russian media.
Previously, scholars taking part in the scientific and practical conference “Bhagavad Gita in History and Modern Society” at Tomsk State University on 24 February expressed serious concerns over the new investigation into the “Bhagavad Gita” case.
Below is the text of the open letter to Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, obtained by NEWSru.com.
Dear Dmitry Anatolyevich!
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!
The trial of the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” has been ongoing in Tomsk for more than a year now. This book is a translation of an ancient Indian philosophical treatise (5th-6th centuries) and commentaries by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a 20th century Indian thinker, and is a central scripture for a branch of Hinduism.
The trial was initiated on 30 June 2011, when the State Prosecutor’s Office in Tomsk brought charges against the book, classing it as extremist material. On 28 December 2011, Leninsky District Court of Tomsk dismissed the extremism charges, citing the applicable legislation of the Russian Federation and rules of international law. We believe this court ruling to be lawful and warranted. Yet, on 23 January 2012, the Tomsk Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal against the ruling of the trial court. The new hearing is scheduled for 20 March 2012.
The All-Russian scientific and practical conference, held at Tomsk State University on 24 February 2012, gathering more than 60 participants, presented compelling arguments by distinguished scholars, including specialists in Indian studies, regarding the book on trial. Previously, professional religious scholars and philosophers took a clear position on “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” and the unfounded charges. The conclusions of the scientific conference prove that the book does not contain any signs of extremism and does not foment racial, religious or any other form of hatred. On the contrary, the book is written in keeping with the commentary tradition of Bengali Vaishnavism, one of the most popular branches of Hinduism, and is considered sacred by some believers.
Experts in Indian studies, religious scholars, philologists (language experts and literary scholars), historians and philosophers have pointed repeatedly to the fact that the original text of the Bhagavad Gita, starting the 7th-8th centuries, fits with the commentaries, so that scholars, Hindus and the world community find no discrepancies between the scripture and “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” with Swami Prabhupada’s commentaries.
Any statements in the media about the Prosecutor’s Office’s plans to prove the extremist nature of the commentaries only, rather than the Bhagavad Gita text itself, are fallacious and run counter to the very tradition of Hinduism, because they fail to take into account that the religious commentary forms an integral part of the entire text. “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” is an authentic component of real Hinduism and deserves a respectful attitude on the part of representatives of both the cultural community and other confessions.
We believe that the trial instigated by the Tomsk Prosecutor’s Office against the sacred book, which is an authoritative element of Hinduism, not only damages the reputation of Russian science and culture but also discredits Russia’s cultural and democratic image in the eyes of the civilised world and drives a wedge in Russian-Indian relations.” Evidence to this has been provided by the wave of protests across India last December, which did not remain unnoticed at the top political level of the two countries. Indian media monitoring reports, statements by Indian politicians, Indian diplomats in Russia and representatives of various Indian social groups prove that the news concerning the trial in Tomsk engendered a highly negative response in Indian society, as well as appearance of a hostile attitude towards Russia.
We believe that continuation of the trial of the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” in Tomsk contradicts the spirit of law and freedom and the democratic values of our state, and does irreparable damage to the reputation of Russia as an educated, cultural and tolerant country.
We urge you to take this unprecedented case under your personal control.
12 March 2012
A.A.Guseinov, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS); Director of the RAS Institute of Philosophy
M.T. Stepaniants, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Head of Eastern Philosophies at the RAS Institute of Philosophy
P.S.Gurevich, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Philology, Cand.Sc. in Historical Studies, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences
(RANS), Head of History of Anthropological Studies at the RAS Institute of Philosophy
V.G.Lysenko, Doctor of Philosophy, Chief Researcher at the RAS Institute of Philosophy, Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities
T.B. Lyubimova, Doctor of Philosophy, Lead Researcher at the RAS Institute of Philosophy
I.Ya.Kanterov, Doctor of Philosophy, Honourable Professor at Moscow State University
T.L.Shaumian, Cand.Sc. in Historical Studies, Head of the Centre for Indian Studies of the RAS Oriental Studies Institute
I.P.Glushkova, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Cand.Sc. in Philology, Lead Researcher at the Centre for Indian Studies of the RAS Oriental Studies Institute
E.Yu.Vanina, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Head of History and Culture at the Centre for Indian Studies of the RAS Oriental Studies Institute
E.S.Elbakian, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor in the sociology and management of social processes at the Academy of Labor and Social Relations, research advisor and coordinator of the projects “Religion Studies. Encyclopedic Dictionary” and “Encyclopedia of Religions”
A.M.Dubyansky, Cand.Sc. in Philology, Assistant Professor in Indian Philology at Lomonosov MSU Institute for Asian and African Countries, Assistant Professor in History and Philology of Central and Southern Asia at the Institute for Oriental Cultures and the Ancient World at the Russian State University for the Humanities
N.V.Shaburov, Cand.Sc. in Cultural Studies, Head of the Centre for Religious Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities
B.Z.Falikov, Cand.Sc. in Historical Studies, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Religious Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities
V.V.Kravchuk, Cand.Sc. in Philosophy, Assistant Professor, Deputy Head of Teaching Methods at the State-Confessions Relations Board of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
I.A.Gazieva, Assistant Professor in Oriental Languages of Theoretic and Applied Linguistics at the Linguistics Institute of the Russian State University for the Humanities
N.N.Karpitsky, Doctor of Philosophy, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the Siberian State Medical Institute
E.I.Arinin, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Head of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Vladimir State University
O.K.Shimanskaya, Cand.Sc. in Philosophy, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, History and Ancient Languages at Dobrolyubov Linguistic University
O.V.Orlova, Cand.Sc. in Philology, Assistant Professor at Tomsk State Pedagogical University