Washington, D.C. (December 20, 2011) -- The Hindu American community expressed shock and outrage over a recent attempt in Russia to ban the Bhagavad Gita, one of Hinduism’s holiest scriptures. The case was reportedly initiated by state prosecutors in the Siberian town of Tomsk, where they are trying to ban the scripture by labeling it “extremist.”According to representatives of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) in Russia, the state prosecutors have taken select words from the Bhagavad Gita out of context, in an effort to officially proscribe the text. The version of the Gita in question is a Russian translation by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON.
In response to the case, a number of Hindus in Russia have come together to form the Hindu Council of Russia in order to protect their rights. Hindu community leaders have also approached the Indian embassy in Russia for assistance, while the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has formally presented its concerns to Russian embassy officials here in Washington, D.C. and requested a meeting to further address the situation.
“The actions of Russian prosecutors are indefensible and represent a draconian attempt to restrict the religious freedom of Hindus in Russia,” said Suhag Shukla, HAF Managing Director and Legal Counsel. “By promoting a narrow and intolerant agenda that demonizes a sacred scripture revered by more than one billion Hindus worldwide, Russian officials are acting contrary to the principles of a free democratic society.”
Originally scheduled to issue its verdict on Monday, December 19, the court reviewing the case decided to postpone its verdict until December 28 to gather additional opinions of experts from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“We urge the Russian judiciary and government to uphold the basic rights of their Hindu citizens,” said Jay Kansara, HAF’s Washington, D.C. based Associate Director. “Any court ruling or law that would prohibit the Bhagavad Gita or any other Hindu religious literature would be considered a direct attack on the civil liberties of Russia’s Hindu community and an affront to Hindus throughout the world.”