Gita ban: Russian court suspends verdict

Moscow: A Russian court today suspended its verdict till December 28 on the demand for banning Hindu scripture Bhagavad Gita, which a group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church has described as `extremist`.

"The ruling has been postponed till December 28, as the lawyer of the local chapter of ISKCON requested the court to seek opinion of Russian ombudsman and experts from Moscow and St. Petersburg – the main centres of Indology in Russia", Sadhu Priya Das of ISKCON told PTI after the court in the Siberian city of Tomsk suspended its verdict.

Earlier, Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin in his statement had declared that "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is a globally respected book, and it was unacceptable to seek a ban on it in Russia.

Meanwhile, at their emergency meeting Sunday night here Hindus from India, Bangladesh, Mauritius, Nepal and other countries residing in Russia set up the Hindu Council of Russia to defend their interests. Das has been elected its chairman.

"We have trust in the Russian judiciary and finally the truth will prevail," Das said.

Ironically, Tomsk is the home to the Imperial Energy, the Siberian subsidiary of India`s ONGC Videsh Ltd, which has invested million of dollars in the region.

Commenting on the move to ban Gita, Das of Moscow ISKCON said, they had approached the Indian diplomats here. "We got in touch with the Indian embassy in Moscow. Our colleagues has approached Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh`s) office to help us on the issue. We are thankful to them. They are paying attention on the issue," Das told PTI.

When asked about approaching the Russian government on the issue, Das said, "Government of Russia can withdraw the case anytime."

"They branded our religious belief as extremists. I feel that it is a national issue. The world should protest. They have picked words from the book and tried to prove that Gita promotes extremism and terrorism," Das said.

Earlier, the court, which took up the case filed by the state prosecutors, had referred the book to the Tomsk State University for "an expert" examination. "The university is not qualified to give view on the issue as it lacked Indologists who study the history and cultures, languages, and literature of the Indian subcontinent," Das added.

US-based Hindu leader Rajan Zed had also criticised the attempts to ban Gita in the Russian city of Tomsk.

Zed, who is the President of Universal Society of Hindus had in a recent statement said that it was apparently an attack on religious freedom and belittling of the entire community.

He had also urged leaders of other world religions to strongly protest the ban attempt as Gita was a world treasure.