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Bhagavad Gita controversy: Krishna to the rescue!

Last updated on: December 23, 2011 22:39 IST

Image: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has assured that Moscow will resolve the issue appropriately
Photographs: Reuters

In the wake of an uproar over a case in a Russian court seeking ban on Bhagavad Gita, the government on Tuesday termed the complaint as "patently absurd" and expressed confidence that Moscow will resolve the matter "appropriately".

Noting that the matter had been taken up at the "senior levels" of the Russian government, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the Lok Sabha that the complaint seemed to be the handiwork of "some ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals".

"While this complaint is patently absurd, we have treated this matter seriously and the embassy of India (in Moscow) is closely monitoring this legal case," he said, adding that the government fully shared the sentiments expressed by the members on the issue.

"We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilisational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately", the minister said, adding "we do not want to dignify with too much attention some misdirected individuals who have filed an absurd complaint."


'Gita is far above any cheap propaganda'

Image: Devotees of Hare Rama Hare Krishna

Emphasising that Gita was not simply a religious text, he said, "It is one of the defining treatises of Indian thought and described the very soul of our great civilisation. The Gita is far above any cheap propaganda or attacks by the ignorant or the misdirected." The remark was greeted with thumping of desks by members. After the statement of the Minister, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded that Gita be declared a 'national book' so that "no country would dare to insult it".

Krishna, who had earlier laid the statement on the table of the House as he was unable to read it following an Opposition uproar over a privilege notice against Home Minister P Chidambaram, was later asked by Speaker Meira Kumar to read it out.

Kumar allowed him to read it as a "special case" only after Bharatiya Janata Party members ended their protests over the Chidambaram matter and wanted Krishna to make the statement.

'Declare Gita a national book'

The minister said the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, which had been functioning in Russia for decades, has "faced periodic problems with respect to its properties and functioning in Moscow and elsewhere". He said this organisation had conveyed to the Indian embassy that it had received a notice this June from a court in Tomsk in Eastern Siberia of a complaint filed by the public prosecutor's office.

"This complaint, apparently driven by some local individuals, was to the effect that the third Russian edition of the publication 'Bhagwad Gita As It Is' - a translation of a commentary by Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON, had certain portions that were 'objectionable' and 'extremist' in nature," he said.

'Gita a great source of wisdom for people of India, world'

Image: The ISKCON temple in St Petersburg, Russia

Krishna said following the initial proceedings, the court appointed a three-member expert group from University of Kemerovo in Siberia, which submitted its report.

The final hearing, which was due on Wednesday, has been rescheduled for December 28 as the court also sought the opinion of the Russian Ombudsman on Human Rights and Indologists in Moscow and St Petersburg.

The minister said Russian ambassador in India Alexander Kadakin, himself a well-known Indologist, has been publicly critical of this episode. He has said Gita is the "great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world. He also said Russia is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect".

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