Thirty-five years after a fateful clandestine meeting in Moscow
between ISKCON founder Swami Prabhupada and a young white Russian who
was to receive the dangerously secret gift of a banned Bhagvad Gita,
take the name Ananda Shanti Das, and build from scratch a
100,000-strong community of native Krishna bhaktas (devotees), the
Slavonic Hindu may be emerging as the 21st century's most potent symbol
of too-successfully spreading the word beyond Indian shores.
A gathering campaign by British parliamentarians is set to tell an
astonished world that Russia's Hindus – white, Slav and steadfast in
their faith – are living symbols of state oppression in a country
counted as one of the world's eight most advanced and industrialised
The campaign in the British parliament, led by UK Indian Labour Party
MP Ashok Kumar and spearheaded by the umbrella Hindu Forum of Britain
(HFB), will claim that Russian Hindus continue to be denied the right
to build a temple and have been left without electricity, heating and
water in their freezing makeshift Moscow temple.
The campaign is set to unveil a devastating saga spanning nearly four
decades in which Russian Hindus are alleged to have been variously
vilified by the Soviet state, the Russian Orthodox church, Russian
Islamist and Jewish leaders and far-right nationalist politicians such
as Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
The British campaign is to be kickstarted when Yuri Luzhkov, mayor of
Moscow and allegedly Slavic Hinduism's most implacable foe, arrives in
London early next month.
So far, there has been no official response to the allegations from
Luzhkov's office or President Vladimir Putin's government.
But the new campaign, which aims to harness the collective might of
British and European political, press and public opinion to recall
Moscow to a sense of its human rights obligations, is thought to be
dangerously poised to undo Russia's attempts to gain global legitimacy
even as it controversially takes over presidency of the G8.
The British campaign, which is bolstered by European and Australian
Hindu organisations, comes exactly 25 years after the then deputy KGB
chief Semen Tsvigun first exhorted the Soviet Union to recognise and
stamp on the three greatest threats to the state – "Western culture,
rock and roll and Krishna".
Commentators and academics, including Edwin Bacon of Birmingham
University's Centre for Russian and East European Studies, say the
Russian campaign against the indigenous spread of Hinduism is part of a
" broad line taken by the state certainly since the mid-1990s ... of
encouraging 'traditional' religions, especially Russian Orthodoxy,
whilst putting in place restrictions on other groups deemed
So great was the Russian sense of threat that a 1994 council of Russian
Orthodox bishops warned that "the teachings of the Bhagvad Gita are a
false religion" and that "neo-pagan, pseudo-Christian, occultist faiths
(such as Hinduism) are a threat to the unity of national consciousness
and cultural identity of Russia".
Accordingly, Slavic Hindus were remorselessly persecuted, the HFB's
Ramesh Kallidai told TOI on Friday, and the victimisation included
incarceration in prison, forced labour in Siberia, mafia violence,
prevention of temple construction, abuse of Lord Krishna as "wicked and
malicious" and the Hindu faith as "a satanic obscenity...idolatorous".
The Russian Hindus' only offence, claimed Kallidai, was that they
worshipped in the Hindu way, did not eat meat, observed Hindu religious
festivals and went to the temple. "The persecution continues today",
claimed Kallidai, "and it is time Britain, India and the world does
something to stop it".
But still, Russian Hinduism continues stubbornly to grow and flourish,
claim community leaders, with 97 registered charities, 22 registered
monasteries, 250 so-called 'home groups' that conduct satsang and an
astonishing 20,000 free meals served every day in Russia's estimated
100 embattled temples.
If anything, says Kallidai, Slavonic Hinduism may be the new template
for a turbo-charged globalised Hinduism with an hitherto-unremarked