New Delhi, Dec. 28: India today welcomed a Siberian courts decision to throw out a plea to ban a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita that a group linked to the Russian Christian Orthodox Church had branded extremist.
A foreign ministry official said Delhi was happy to learn that the legal case in connection with the publication Bhagavad-Gita As It Is has been dismissed.
We appreciate this sensible resolution of a sensitive issue and are glad to put this episode behind us, ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said after the verdict by the court in the Russian city of Tomsk.
We also appreciate the efforts of all friends in Russia who made this outcome possible. This demonstrates yet again that the people of India and Russia have a deep understanding of each others cultures and will always reject any attempt to belittle our common civilisational values, the official added.
Delhi had taken up the matter with Moscow last week after the group filed the petition to ban the book in Russia.
The translation, by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, founder of the religious movement Iskcon, is a commentary on the Hindu holy book Gita, where Krishna counsels Arjuna after the Pandava warriors moral dilemma in fighting his cousins in the Kurukshetra war.
In its plea to the court, the prosecution had pleaded that the commentary violated a 2002 anti-extremism law. Sources said the law, which has a loose definition of extremist activity, had been used by the Russian Christian Orthodox Church to fight non-traditional beliefs and groups like Scientology, Jehovahs Witnesses and Iskcon. Human rights organisations in Russia have opposed the law which, they think, has become a tool to curb dissent.
The case, and reports that the Siberian court was considering its verdict on the call to ban the commentary, had led to protests in Parliament last week. Yadav leaders Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh said an insult of the Gita amounted to an insult of Krishna.
In his reply in the Lok Sabha, foreign minister S.M. Krishna had said that Iskcon, active in Russia for decades, had faced periodic problems with respect to its properties and functioning in Moscow and elsewhere, and slammed the petition as patently absurd.
Official sources said the courts verdict may not end Iskcons difficulties in Russia. According to them, the movements influence in small towns had become a matter of concern for the Russian Christian Orthodox Church, which resented the increasing presence at Iskcon gatherings even as the numbers have dwindled at church services.