Samay Live – Feb 16, 2012 –
Nearly two months after a Russian court rejected a ban on a translated version of Bhagvad Gita, a top Siberian prosecutor has now demanded the removal of a Russian comment only from the book for being “extremist”, without affecting the canonical text of the scripture.
On December 28, a court in the Siberian city of Tomsk had rejected a petition seeking a ban on the translated version of Bhagvad Gita, a verdict which was welcomed by India as a “sensible resolution of a sensitive issue”.
Tomsk Region Prosecutor General Vasily Voikin has now demanded that “a Russian translation of a comment in this book, earlier published in English, be banned as extremist, not the canonical text of the scripture,” his deputy Ivan Semchishin was quoted as saying by ‘Ria Novosti’ today. Go to story
Since the controversial court case in Tomsk, many voices have since spoken up in support of Bhagavad-gita As It Is. Indian Ambassador to Russia Ajay Malhotra said that Prabhupada’s translation of the Gita “is one of the best that you can find, because he gives you the words, the meanings and the options to understand it as it was written.” The Russian Chief Director for Human Rights Vladimir Lukin denounced the attempt to ban Bhagavad-gita As It Is as “infringement on the constitutional right to the freedom of consciousness” and said further that it was “unacceptable” to ban the Bhagavad-gita As It Is written by ISKCON founder Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in Russia, as it is a “globally respected book”.
Bhagavad-gita As It Is, translation and commentary by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (known also as “Srila Prabhupada” or just “Prabhupada”) has received acclaim from scholars and theologians worldwide ever since it first came out in 1968 (the original abriged Collier edition) and later in 1972 (the complete MacMillan edition to which Srila Prabhupada put his signature in approval), and has been published in 80 languages and distributed in the hundreds of millions all over the world. University professors have regularly required students to read this particular edition of the 5,000-year-old Sanskrit text as part of their coursework. It is also this edition that is the core of the teachings of Srila Prabhupada, Founder-Acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). The Krishna consciousness movement is inseparable from the books of the Founder-Acharya, including Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Srimad-Bhagavatam, Isopanisad, Chaitanya-charitamrita, and many more.
So the attack on Bhagavad-gita As It Is is a threat to the Krishna consciousness movement in Russia. A court ban would make possession of and distribution of, even just reading the Bhagavad-gita As It Is illegal and punishable. It would curtail the religious freedom of all the Russian people, especially that of the Krishna devotees, many of whom remember too well the great hardships and sacrifices the early devotees experienced in order to pioneer Krishna consciousness in the Soviet Union. In those early days, devotees met surrepticiously, and several prominent devotees were arrested and imprisoned and subjected to torture for their beliefs and proselytising. For this reason it is well that many of the Russian people have reacted with alarm and protested the prosecutor’s case. Of course India has also responded, but it is more important that the Russian people themselves understand the issues and come to their own conclusions.
We have yet to learn what portions of the text have been found by the prosecutor to be offensive, or in his own words, “paragraphs promoting extremism”. According to the Wikipedia article Bhagavad Gita trial in Russia, three professors of Tomsk State University gave “expert assessment” that the Bhagavad-gita As It Is is extremist literature insofar as it “contains claims of exclusiveness of Krishna religion”, and commentary was laced with “unpleasant words against those who were not devotees of Krishna”. They also stated that Bhagavad-gita As It Is is anti-Christian, that “Krishna is evil and not compatible with Christian views”, and that the Bhagavad-gita As It Is teachings incite “social discord” and religious hatred and discrimination against gender, race, nationality, and language.
How curious. There is no similar case pending before the courts seeking to ban the Bible, even though there are so many instances that could be taken to be incendiary, even seditious, and no dearth of references to religious intolerance and discrimination against gender, race, nationality and occupation.
Kali Yuga. It is the age of quarrel and hypocrisy.