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VLADIMIR RADYUHIN || The HINDU || 29th Dec 2011.
A Siberian court has thrown out a petition that sought to ban a translation of the Bhagavad Gita as “extremist” literature.
Judge Galina Butenko of the Leninsky District Court in Tomsk ruled on Wednesday that there were no grounds for recognising Bhagavad Gita As It Isas extremist because the book was “one of the interpretations of the sacred Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita.”
The defence side said it was fully satisfied with the court verdict.
“This court decision shows that Russia is indeed becoming a democratic society,” said lawyer Alexander Shakhov, who represented at the trial the local branch of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
India’s Ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra, who had fiercely opposed the trial, welcomed the court ruling.
“The verdict of the Honourable Judge in Tomsk in dismissing the case pertaining to the Bhagavad Gita deserves to be applauded,” said the envoy. “It is very nice to see that this issue has been conclusively resolved and is now behind us.”
State prosecutors had filed the petition against Bhagavad Gita As It Is, claiming it sowed “social hatred” and called for “violence against non-believers.” The case was built on expert testimony from local professors of philosophy and philology, who said the book expresses religious hatred and discriminates on the basis of gender, race, nationality and language. Prosecutors offered no comment as they left the court after the verdict.
“We are happy that the court showed reason and competence in passing the correct verdict,” said Sergei Zuyev, vice-president of ISKCON in Russia. “It is not right for secular courts to try religions.” On the eve of Wednesday’s hearing, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had summoned the Russian Ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, asking the Russian government to provide all possible help to resolve the issue.
Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin welcomed the court decision. “I think the Russian government must draw the right conclusions from this incident. It should fight terrorism by exposing terrorist plots and outfits, not by passing judgment on ancient sacred scriptures,” he said.
The case against the book had been filed on the basis of the 2002 Russian anti-extremism law, criticised in Russia for its very loose definition of extremist activity. Human rights activists said the law had been used to suppress legitimate criticism of authorities. The Russian Christian Orthodox Church has also been accused of using the law as a tool to fight “non-traditional religions”, such as Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Hare Krishna movement in Russia.
In a particularly bizarre case, a court in Rostov Region two years ago accused Leo Tolstoy of extremism for his denunciation of the Russian Orthodox Church teaching as “a crafty and evil lie” and “a concoction of gross superstition and witchcraft.” Tolstoy was expelled from the Church nine years before his death for his repudiation of Jesus Christ and the Russian Church.
New Delhi Special Correspondent writes:
“We are happy to learn that the case has been dismissed by the Hon’ble Court in Tomsk in the Russian Federation. We appreciate this sensible resolution of a sensitive issue and are glad to put this episode behind us. We also appreciate the efforts of all friends in Russia who made this outcome possible,” said the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs.
TNN & Agencies | Dec 29, 2011
MOSCOW/NEW DELHI: The joke goes that the Biblical saying ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ translates in Russian as ‘the vodka is good, the meat bad’. Acknowledging that much is lost in translation, a Siberian court on Wednesday refused to ban a translated version of the Bhagwad Gita, saying prosecutors’ fears that it promoted “social discord” were unfounded.
The ministry of external affairs welcomed the verdict as a “sensible resolution of a sensitive issue”.
The case in a court in Tomsk city for the past six months was against Iskcon’s version of the Gita, but it was troubling in many parts of the world, particularly because the text, regarded as philosophical and sacred, was being branded “extremist”. Prosecutors argued that the Russian edition of ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ promoted hatred towards non-believers.
The external affairs ministry welcomed the Russian court’s rejection of a plea to ban a translation of the Bhagwad Gita, a day after foreign minister S M Krishna registered India’s protest with Russian envoy Alexander Kadakin.
“This demonstrates yet again that the people of India and Russia have a deep understanding of each other’s cultures and will always reject any attempt to belittle our common civilizational values…we appreciate this sensible resolution of a sensitive issue and are glad to put this episode behind us. We also appreciate the efforts of all friends in Russia who made this outcome possible,” a statement from the ministry said. “We have won the case. The judge has rejected the petition,” Sadhu Priya Das of ISKCON, Moscow, who is also chairman of newly-formed Hindu Council of Russia, said. Russian lawyers Mikahil Fralov and Alexander Shakhov argued strongly against the petition. “This judge’s decision shows that Russia is becoming a truly democratic society,” Shakhov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
The prosecutors had appealed to the Tomsk court to put ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ on the Russian Federal List of Extremist Materials, which bans more than 1,000 texts, including Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ and books distributed by the Jehovah’s Witness and Scientology movements.
The case had stalled Parliament proceedings last week. Krishna called in the Russian ambassador Kadakin on Tuesday to register India’s protest and sought Russian government’s intervention. In a statement issued, Indian ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra said, “The verdict of the Honourable Judge in Tomsk in dismissing the case pertaining to Bhagavad Gita deserves to be applauded.”