The court case against a translation of the Bhagavad Gita in the Siberian city of Tomsk is linked to long-running attempts by the Russian Orthodox Church to limit the activities of the Hare Krishna movement, branding it as a totalitarian sect.
Earlier this year, the authorities banned the construction of an ISKCON community village in the Tomsk region. Seven years ago, the Moscow city government did not allow the movement to build a sprawling prayer-cum-cultural complex in central Moscow. Later, ISKCON was permitted to set up its centre in a Moscow suburb.
ISKCON says it has one lakh Russian followers and more than 100 communities but the Orthodox Church claims the number is in a few thousands.
Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin regretted that the case was being heard in the university city of Tomsk, famous for its secularism and religious tolerance, and reiterated the secular credentials of Russia (the Interior Minister is a practising Muslim.)
Mr. Kadakin considered it “categorically inadmissible when any holy scripture is taken to…courts. For all believers, these texts are sacred.”
A second-term ambassador, whose first posting was in India in 1971 and who for years taught about India, Mr. Kadakin said the Bhagavad Gita, along with the holy scriptures of other faiths, was a great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world. “Russia, as is known to anyone, is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect. This is even more applicable to [the] holy scriptures of various faiths, whether it is the Bible, the Holy Quran, the Torah, the Avesta and, of course, the Bhagavad Gita, the great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world,” he said.
“It is not normal either, when religious books are sent for examination to ignorant people. Their academic scrutiny should be done at scientists’ fora, congresses, seminars, etc., but not in court. It is strange that such events are unfolding in the beautiful university city in Siberia, as Tomsk…is famous for its secularism and religious tolerance. Well, it seems that even the lovely city of Tomsk has its own neighbourhood madmen. It is sad indeed.”