Russian court dismisses plea seeking ban on Gita

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By thehindu.com

A Russian court on Tuesday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on a translated version of Bhagwad Gita for being “extremist”, bringing cheers to followers across the world.

“The court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has dismissed the plea,” Sadhu Priya Das of Moscow ISKCON told PTI soon after the verdict was announced.

State prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had filed an appeal against a lower court’s dismissal of their original plea seeking a ban on “Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

They claimed that the text was “extremist” literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord.

The higher court in Tomsk “kept the verdict of the lower court intact,” a joyful Mr. Das said.

As the judge dismissed the plea, the followers in the packed courtroom burst into applause, he said.

“We are grateful to the Russian judicial system,” Mr. Das said.

Brajendra Nandan Das, Director ISKCON media communication in India, expressed happiness over the verdict. “We have won.

The petition seeking a ban on the book has been dismissed,” he said.

The case had drawn a flurry of criticism from Hindus across the world.

When the petition was dismissed by the lower court in Tomsk on December 28 last year, India had welcomed the verdict as a “sensible resolution of a sensitive issue“.

The original petition seeking a ban on the translated version of the Holy Scripture was filed in June 2011 and the trial prompted sharp reactions from across the world.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had asked the Russian government to help resolve the issue quickly.

Bhagavad Gita was first published in Russia in 1788 and since then it has been republished many times in various translations.

India welcomes verdict

Reacting to Wednesday’s verdict, Indian Ambassador to Russia, Ajai Malhotra, said he welcomed the decision of the court.

“I welcome the verdict of the Honourable District Court in Tomsk today, which has dismissed the appeal petition in the Bhagavad Gita case.

“It is good that the decision of the lower trial court in this matter has been reaffirmed. I trust that this issue is now conclusively behind us,” Mr. Malhotra said in a statement.

Last month, participants at conference on Bhagvad Gita had suggested creation of an independent board of scholars to evaluate various texts for signs of extremism.

“The conference has indicated the permanent historical acknowledgment of Bhagavd Gita, which carries on the commentatorial tradition of the religious authority, and has shown its spiritual influence on the cultural development not only in India, but also in other countries,” a resolution adopted at the conference said.

The participants also firmly believed that the notion of extremism cannot be applied to such a religious text as “Bhagavad Gita as it is“.

The scholars had also expressed “deep satisfaction in regards to Tomsk court’s decision to reject the prosecutors’ plea for recognising the ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ as extremist literature.”

They had also expressed their concern with the “low level” of the general culture of officers of the law enforcement agencies and the state authorities.

“We would like to draw the government’s and society’s attention to the urgent problem of the enforcement practice of the Federal Statute ‘On counteraction against extremism activity’, which permits nowadays such abuse towards religious organisations”, the resolution, which was also submitted to the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Indian embassy in Moscow, had said.

source: http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/religion/article3019615.ece

————————
By ndtv.com

Moscow: A Russian court today dismissed a petition seeking a ban on a translated version of Bhagvad Gita for being “extremist”, bringing cheers to followers across the world.

“The court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has dismissed the plea,” Sadhu Priya Das of Moscow ISKCON said soon after the verdict was announced.

State prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had filed an appeal against a lower court’s dismissal of their original plea seeking a ban on Bhagavad Gita As It Is, written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

They claimed that the text was “extremist” literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord.

The higher court in Tomsk “kept the verdict of the lower court intact,” a joyful Das said.

As the judge dismissed the plea, the followers in the packed courtroom burst into applause, he said.

“We are grateful to the Russian judicial system,” Mr Das said.

Brajendra Nandan Das, Director ISKCON media communication in India, expressed happiness over the verdict. “We have won. The petition seeking a ban on the book has been dismissed.”

The case had drawn a flurry of criticism from Hindus across the world.

When the petition was dismissed by the lower court in Tomsk on December 28 last year, India had welcomed the verdict as a “sensible resolution of a sensitive issue”.

The original petition seeking a ban on the translated version of the holy scripture was filed in June 2011 and the trial prompted sharp reactions from across the world.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had asked the Russian government to help resolve the issue quickly.

Bhagavad Gita was first published in Russia in 1788 and since then it has been republished many times in various translations.

Source: http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/russian-court-dismisses-plea-seeking-ban-on-gita-188254&cp

—————

A Hindu Victory in Russia Could Heal Rift With India

LONDON — Russia extricated itself from an embarrassing spat with India on Wednesday when a provincial appeals court definitively rejected an attempt to ban a version of the Bhagavad Gita, the Hindu holy book.

An almost year-long legal dispute had been raised at the highest level between the two nations, traditional friends and partners. The case caused an uproar in the Indian parliament and was raised when Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, visited Moscow in December.

A group of Russian scholars, in a written appeal to the Kremlin, said the case “discredits Russia’s cultural and democratic credentials in the eyes of the civilized world and is driving a wedge in Russian-Indian relations.”

The controversy stemmed from attempts by prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk to ban a version of the holy book that Tomsk University experts claimed “incites religious hatred, humiliates the dignity of people on the basis of sex, race, nationality, language, origin and attitude toward religion.”

Members of the Hare Krishna movement, whose founder Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote the contentious version, rushed to its defense, claiming Russia’s 50,000 Hindus were being singled out for persecution by the state and the powerful Christian Orthodox church.

For some, the case fit into a pattern of Russian treatment of religious minorities. Jehovah’s Witnesses have frequently been summoned before Russian courts and their publications banned as extremist, raising concerns in Europe.

In the Tomsk case, the local district court in December ruled against the prosecution, prompting prosecutors to appeal. Hare Krishna devotees burst into applause at Wednesday’s hearing when the higher court threw out the case. The Indian press had reported anxiety and frustration among Russian Hindus ahead of the ruling.

“We are grateful to the Russian judicial system,” Sadhu Priya Das, head of the Russian branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was quoted as saying.

Tomsk prosecutors had attempted to argue that they did not seek to ban the Bhagavad Gita, available in Russia since the 18th century, but only this particular version of the holy book and the commentaries it contained, an argument supported by Russian officials but rejected by the defense.

Russian-Indian relations may have been spared further fallout but Russia’s Hindus are not out of the woods yet. A Vedic cultural center in St. Petersburg, home town of president-elect Vladimir V. Putin, is facing eviction in a property dispute.

“This could be the part of the anti-Hindu campaign by a section of Russian Orthodox Christian Church zealots, after their demand to seek the ban on the Bhagavad Gita,” Suren Karapetyan, head of the Center for Spiritual Development, told India’s Zeenews.

source: http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/hindu-victory-in-russia-could-heal-indian-rift/

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Bhakti Vijnana Goswami, who was present at the trial commented: “The judges were well prepared and in their questions pointed out the weaknesses of the prosecutor’s appeal. The whole hearing took only one hour and it was clear that it will be in ISKCON`s favour. After just a few minutes the positive verdict upholding the decision of the lower court was announced. After the court, the media people gathered for the press conference, and the mood was very joyful. It was af if the media was selebrating the victory with ISKCON.”

Comment posted by Administrator on March 21st, 2012

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