Russian court dismisses plea to ban Gita

New Delhi: Hindus in Russia Wednesday won a major legal battle when a court in the Siberian city of Tomsk threw out a case filed by the state prosecutors seeking a ban on a Russian translation of a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita.

The higher court in Tomsk, before which the state prosecutors had filed an appeal, upheld a lower court verdict delivered in December last year dismissing the case.

“We have won the case. The court has dismissed the state prosecutors’ appeal,” an elated Sadhu Priya Das, a devotee of the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) in Russia said.

The case relates to Tomsk state prosecutor’s filing a petition in June 2011 seeking a ban on a Russian translation of “Bhagwad Gita As It Is” written by A.C. Bhaktived Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON, claiming that it was “extremist” in nature and spread “social discord”.

“The appeal case was dismissed,” ISKCON international chief Bhakti Vijnana Goswami, who is on a worldwide tour said in an e-mail reaction to the verdict.

Commenting on the Tomsk higher court’s decision, India’s Ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra said: “I welcome the verdict of the district court in Tomsk today (Wednesday), which has dismissed the appeal petition in the Bhagavad Gita case.”

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

Anxiety had gripped the 50,000-odd ISKCON followers in Russia after the state prosecutors appealed in February this year against the Dec 27 verdict that went against their petition to ban the Russian translation of the book by the ISKCON founder.

The case triggered an uproar in India, even rocking parliament for two days, with MPs cutting across party lines asking the government to use its diplomacy skills to get the issue resolved, so that the religious rights of Hindus in Russia is protected.

India drummed up support for the Hindus in Russia through meetings between Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Russian Ambassador Alexander Kadakin, who called the case a work of some “madmen”.