India slams 'absurd' bid to ban Gita in Russia

20th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

India's foreign minister condemned Tuesday a "patently absurd" court case in Russia seeking to ban a version of one of Hinduism's most important and scared texts, the Bhagavad Gita.

The case filed by state prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk claims that a renowned translation of the text, titled "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" is "extremist literature" and should join Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf on a list of banned books.

Speaking in parliament, Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said the lawsuit was the work of "ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals" and an attack on a religious text that defines the "very soul of our great civilisation".

"While this complaint is patently absurd, we have treated this matter seriously," Krishna said, adding that formal protests had been registered with senior government officials in Moscow.

"We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilisational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately," he said.

"Bhagavad Gita As It Is" -- first published in 1968 -- is a translation of and commentary on the original text by Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the international Hare Krishna movement, ISKCON.

ISKCON members have linked the court case to the Russian Orthodox church, which they claim wants to limit their activities in Russia.

On Monday, the Indian parliament had to be adjourned after an uproar over the issue and protestors gathered outside the Russian consulate in the eastern city of Kolkata.

The Siberian court has postponed its judgement on the case until December 28.

If it rules in favour of the suit, the book would be placed on a list of banned works that includes Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf.

New Delhi and Moscow have enjoyed close ties that date back to the 1950s. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from an annual visit to Moscow at the weekend after sealing a preliminary deal to buy 42 jets.

In a statement Monday, the Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, voiced his concern and sadness that the case was ever allowed to reach the court.

"It seems that even the lovely city of Tomsk has its own neighbourhood madmen," Kadakin said.

"I consider it categorically inadmissible when any holy scripture is taken to the courts. For all believers these texts are sacred," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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