Very interestingly, this issue of the Bhagavad Gita As It Is facing the threat of a ban by a Russian court in Tomsk, has led to calls from Indian political leaders for the Gita to be declared a national book of India.
Here are some articles about the issue that stirred the Indian house of parliament a few days ago.
---------- Forwarded Message ----------
Letter PAMHO:22710663 (23 lines) [M1]
From: Sadhu Priya (das) GKG (Moscow - R)
Date: 21-Dec-11 19:51 (23:51 +0400)
To: Gopal Krsna Goswami etc etc
Reference: Text PAMHO:22699494 by Radharamandas RNS
Subject: Response to a media query today by Ambassador of India, HE Mr.
Response to a media query today by Ambassador of India, HE Mr. Ajai
> “The Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the most important and respected
> scripture in the world. First translated into Russian in 1788, it is
> not merely a religious text, but one of the defining treatises of
> Indian thought. The Bhagavad Gita has circulated freely across the
> world for centuries and there is not a single instance of it having
> encouraged extremism. So, the case before the Honourable Court in
> Tomsk is indeed absurd, bordering on the bizarre. Knowledgeable
> Russian and other experts have provided supportive statements about
> the Bhagvad Gita to the Honourable Court in Tomsk. The Ombudsman
> handling Human Rights too is due to speak for freedom of religion and
> conscience in Russia at its next hearing on December 28. It is hoped
> that all this would be fully appreciated by the Honourable Court in
> Tomsk. The Russian authorities have been approached at high levels to
> appropriately resolve this matter.”
> Ajai Malhotra
> Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation
(Text PAMHO:22710663) --------------------------------------
------- End of Forwarded Message ------
>>>>>>>>>>>>Article from The Hindu Indian newspaper
[This article shows that the Russian authorities/public prosecutor at Tomsk,
Siberia, is targeting ISKCON]
NEWS » INTERNATIONAL
MOSCOW, December 23, 2011
Gita not on trial but its commentaries, says Russia
MOSCOW: Russia has rejected as misplaced India's complaints about the trial
in the Siberian city of Tomsk against a translation of the Bhagavad Gita.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said it was not the Bhagavad Gita as such that
was on trial but some comments contained in a 20th-century Russian
translation of the scripture.
Russian prosecutors are seeking a court ban on the book, which they claim is
extremist and insulting to non-believers.
“I would like to emphasise that this is not about ‘Bhagavad Gita,' a
religious philosophical poem, which forms part of the great Indian epic
Mahabharata and is one of the most famous pieces of the ancient Hindu
literature. In Russia, the book was first published in Russian in 1788 and
then went through many editions in different years and in various
translations,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
“The Tomsk court case is about classifying as extremist material the
Russian-language edition of the Bhagavad Gita. As It Is, written in 1968 by
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the International Society
for Krishna Consciousness,” Mr. Lukashevich said in reply to a request from
The Hindu to clarify the Russian official position on the court trial.
The statement came a day after India upped the ante in the controversy.
“The Russian authorities have been approached at high levels to
appropriately resolve this matter,” said Indian Ambassador to Russia Ajai
“The Bhagavad Gita is perhaps the most important and respected scripture in
the world. First translated into Russian in 1788, it is not merely a
religious text, but one of the defining treatises of Indian thought,” Mr.
Malhotra said in a statement.
“The Bhagavad Gita has circulated freely across the world for centuries and
there is not a single instance of it having encouraged extremism. So, the
case before the Honourable Court in Tomsk is indeed absurd, bordering on the
bizarre,” he added.
However, the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed that the Tomsk court was not
trying the ‘Bhagavad Gita.”
“As evident from the testimony, the complaints of law enforcement
authorities relate, not so much to the text of the book as such, even though
its double translation contains distortions, but rather to the author's
commentaries, which are considered to fall under Article 13 of the Federal
Law ‘On Counteracting Extremist Activity',” Mr. Lukashevich said.
On Monday the Tomsk court adjourned the case till December 28 as it agreed
to hear testimony from the Russian Ombudsman on Human Rights and Russian
Indologists, who favour dismissal of the charges.
<End of article from The Hindu Indian newspaper
It has been alleged that the scholars whom the prosecutors consulted were not expert indologists, and they labelled the Gita comentary by Srila Prabhupada as 'extremist'. Well, that may be their personal opinion, but here is what a Jagad Guru of the Madhva-Acarya Sampradaya based in Udupi (one of the four main schools of living Vaishnava tradition in India) has said about Srila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is commentary.
"...Sri Chaitanya Sampradaya is a branch of Madhwa philosophy. There are historic proofs to substantiate this fact. The sadhana achieved by Sri A. C. Prabhupada, Acharya of "Chaitanya Sampradaya" is to be welcomed by all Vaishnavites. It is due to him people all over the world have learned about Lord Krishna. This work should have been accomplished by Madhwa followers. But Prabhupada has served the world in propagating this cult. Even in the western world he has attracted a large number of devotees of Lord Krishna, through his discourse on"Bhagavat Geeta." The book "Bhagavat Geeta" of Sri Prabhupada is allowed to be sold in front of Krishna Mandira at Udupi. This fact is known to all eight mutts of Udupi, as well as all devoteesof Udupi Kshetra..."
Sri Laksmivara Tirtha Swami Sri Shiroor Mutt, Udupi
Jadadguru Sri Sri Madhwacharya Peethan
Udupi, South Candra, Karnataka, India
Russian scientists urge Medvedev and Putin to take the Gita trial under their personal control March 19, 2012
A group of renowned Russian scientists representing leading Russian research organisations and universities has addressed an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in connection with the ongoing trial of “Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, a revered Hindu scripture, in the Russian city of Tomsk.
Copies of the letter have been sent to the General Prosecutor’s Office of Russia, Ministry of Justice of Russia, Russian Human Rights Ombudsman, the Public Chamber and selected Russian media.
Previously, scholars taking part in the scientific and practical conference “Bhagavad Gita in History and Modern Society” at Tomsk State University on 24 February expressed serious concerns over the new investigation into the “Bhagavad Gita” case.
Below is the text of the open letter to Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, obtained by NEWSru.com.
Dear Dmitry Anatolyevich!
Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!
The trial of the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” has been ongoing in Tomsk for more than a year now. This book is a translation of an ancient Indian philosophical treatise (5th-6th centuries) and commentaries by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, a 20th century Indian thinker, and is a central scripture for a branch of Hinduism.
The trial was initiated on 30 June 2011, when the State Prosecutor’s Office in Tomsk brought charges against the book, classing it as extremist material. On 28 December 2011, Leninsky District Court of Tomsk dismissed the extremism charges, citing the applicable legislation of the Russian Federation and rules of international law. We believe this court ruling to be lawful and warranted. Yet, on 23 January 2012, the Tomsk Prosecutor’s Office filed an appeal against the ruling of the trial court. The new hearing is scheduled for 20 March 2012.
The All-Russian scientific and practical conference, held at Tomsk State University on 24 February 2012, gathering more than 60 participants, presented compelling arguments by distinguished scholars, including specialists in Indian studies, regarding the book on trial. Previously, professional religious scholars and philosophers took a clear position on “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” and the unfounded charges. The conclusions of the scientific conference prove that the book does not contain any signs of extremism and does not foment racial, religious or any other form of hatred. On the contrary, the book is written in keeping with the commentary tradition of Bengali Vaishnavism, one of the most popular branches of Hinduism, and is considered sacred by some believers.
.... con't in Part 2 of 3 below
- Part 2 of 3 -
Experts in Indian studies, religious scholars, philologists (language experts and literary scholars), historians and philosophers have pointed repeatedly to the fact that the original text of the Bhagavad Gita, starting the 7th-8th centuries, fits with the commentaries, so that scholars, Hindus and the world community find no discrepancies between the scripture and “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” with Swami Prabhupada’s commentaries.
Any statements in the media about the Prosecutor’s Office’s plans to prove the extremist nature of the commentaries only, rather than the Bhagavad Gita text itself, are fallacious and run counter to the very tradition of Hinduism, because they fail to take into account that the religious commentary forms an integral part of the entire text. “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” is an authentic component of real Hinduism and deserves a respectful attitude on the part of representatives of both the cultural community and other confessions.
We believe that the trial instigated by the Tomsk Prosecutor’s Office against the sacred book, which is an authoritative element of Hinduism, not only damages the reputation of Russian science and culture but also discredits Russia’s cultural and democratic image in the eyes of the civilised world and drives a wedge in Russian-Indian relations.” Evidence to this has been provided by the wave of protests across India last December, which did not remain unnoticed at the top political level of the two countries. Indian media monitoring reports, statements by Indian politicians, Indian diplomats in Russia and representatives of various Indian social groups prove that the news concerning the trial in Tomsk engendered a highly negative response in Indian society, as well as appearance of a hostile attitude towards Russia.
..... Con't in Part 3 of 3 below
- Part 3 of 3 -
We believe that continuation of the trial of the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” in Tomsk contradicts the spirit of law and freedom and the democratic values of our state, and does irreparable damage to the reputation of Russia as an educated, cultural and tolerant country.
We urge you to take this unprecedented case under your personal control.
12 March 2012
A.A.Guseinov, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS); Director of the RAS Institute of Philosophy
M.T. Stepaniants, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Head of Eastern Philosophies at the RAS Institute of Philosophy
P.S.Gurevich, Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Philology, Cand.Sc. in Historical Studies, Academician of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences
(RANS), Head of History of Anthropological Studies at the RAS Institute of Philosophy
V.G.Lysenko, Doctor of Philosophy, Chief Researcher at the RAS Institute of Philosophy, Professor at the Russian State University for the Humanities
T.B. Lyubimova, Doctor of Philosophy, Lead Researcher at the RAS Institute of Philosophy
I.Ya.Kanterov, Doctor of Philosophy, Honourable Professor at Moscow State University
T.L.Shaumian, Cand.Sc. in Historical Studies, Head of the Centre for Indian Studies of the RAS Oriental Studies Institute
I.P.Glushkova, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Cand.Sc. in Philology, Lead Researcher at the Centre for Indian Studies of the RAS Oriental Studies Institute
E.Yu.Vanina, Doctor of Historical Sciences, Head of History and Culture at the Centre for Indian Studies of the RAS Oriental Studies Institute
E.S.Elbakian, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor in the sociology and management of social processes at the Academy of Labor and Social Relations, research advisor and coordinator of the projects “Religion Studies. Encyclopedic Dictionary” and “Encyclopedia of Religions”
A.M.Dubyansky, Cand.Sc. in Philology, Assistant Professor in Indian Philology at Lomonosov MSU Institute for Asian and African Countries, Assistant Professor in History and Philology of Central and Southern Asia at the Institute for Oriental Cultures and the Ancient World at the Russian State University for the Humanities
N.V.Shaburov, Cand.Sc. in Cultural Studies, Head of the Centre for Religious Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities
B.Z.Falikov, Cand.Sc. in Historical Studies, Assistant Professor at the Centre for Religious Studies of the Russian State University for the Humanities
V.V.Kravchuk, Cand.Sc. in Philosophy, Assistant Professor, Deputy Head of Teaching Methods at the State-Confessions Relations Board of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration
I.A.Gazieva, Assistant Professor in Oriental Languages of Theoretic and Applied Linguistics at the Linguistics Institute of the Russian State University for the Humanities
N.N.Karpitsky, Doctor of Philosophy, Assistant Professor in Philosophy at the Siberian State Medical Institute
E.I.Arinin, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor, Head of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Vladimir State University
O.K.Shimanskaya, Cand.Sc. in Philosophy, Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies, History and Ancient Languages at Dobrolyubov Linguistic University
O.V.Orlova, Cand.Sc. in Philology, Assistant Professor at Tomsk State Pedagogical University
End of Part 3 of 3
Russian court dismisses plea seeking ban on Gita
Moscow: A Russian court today dismissed a petition seeking a ban on a translated version of Bhagvad Gita for being “extremist”, bringing cheers to followers across the world. “The court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has dismissed the plea,” Sadhu Priya Das of Moscow ISKCON said soon after the verdict was announced.
State prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had filed an appeal against a lower court’s dismissal of their original plea seeking a ban on Bhagavad Gita As It Is, written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). They claimed that the text was “extremist” literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord.
The higher court in Tomsk “kept the verdict of the lower court intact,” a joyful Das said. As the judge dismissed the plea, the followers in the packed courtroom burst into applause, he said. “We are grateful to the Russian judicial system,” Mr Das said.
Brajendra Nandan Das, Director ISKCON media communication in India, expressed happiness over the verdict. “We have won. The petition seeking a ban on the book has been dismissed.” The case had drawn a flurry of criticism from Hindus across the world. When the petition was dismissed by the lower court in Tomsk on December 28 last year, India had welcomed the verdict as a “sensible resolution of a sensitive issue”.
The original petition seeking a ban on the translated version of the holy scripture was filed in June 2011 and the trial prompted sharp reactions from across the world. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had asked the Russian government to help resolve the issue quickly.
Bhagavad Gita was first published in Russia in 1788 and since then it has been republished many times in various translations.