The Indian government had been alerted to the move by a Russian court to ban the Bhagvad Gita, but it reportedly did not intervene, claims press agency IANS. The controversy provoked a strong response again in Parliament today, with the BJP slamming the government for not being proactive enough.
ISKCON devotees in Russia have a copy of a letter that they sent in November to the Prime Minister's Office. The letter was addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Principal Secretary Pulok Chatterji. It asked that the government use high-level ministerial visits to Moscow, ahead of Manmohan Singh's own trip, to ensure the Gita was not banned. A court in Tmosk will deliver its verdict on December 28.
"We are very sorry to inform you that on June 30, 2011, the state prosecutor's office in Tomsk, Russia, has filed a court case asking the court to ban Bhagvad Gita in Russia, translated by ISKCON's founder AC Bhaktived Swami Prabhupada," the letter said. It also alleged that a panel of local experts had concluded that "Krishna is evil and (the Gita is) not compatible with Christian views." The letter was signed by ISKCON's governing body commissioner Gopal Krishna Goswami. ISKCON or the International Society for Krishna Consciousness has in recent years been noted for bulking up its membership in Eastern Europe. The organization has more than 400 centres across the world.
Since the letter was written, India has had six of its ministers and top officials visit Russia, culminating in Manmohan Singh's own visit from December 15 to 17 for a bilateral summit with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
In the Lok Sabha today, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said that the complaint seemed to be the handiwork of "some ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals...While this complaint is patently absurd, we have treated this matter seriously and the Embassy of India (in Moscow) is closely monitoring this legal case."
The remark was greeted with thumping of desks by members. After the statement of the minister, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded that Gita be declared a 'national book' so that "no country would dare to insult it."
She also suggested that the government should have been more proactive. "The embassy and the Russian country cannot take steps automatically. The government will have to take steps on their own," she said. (With Agency Inputs)