|Members of the Hare Krishna movement say the Orthodox Church wants to limit their activities in Russia [Getty]|
India’s foreign minister has condemned a court case in Russia seeking to ban a popular edition of one of Hinduism’s most important and sacred texts, the Bhagavad Gita.
The case filed by state prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk claims that a renowned translation of the text, titled “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” is “extremist literature” and should be placed on a list of banned books.
Speaking in parliament, SM Krishna, the foreign minister, said the lawsuit was the work of “ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals” and an attack on a religious text that defines the “very soul of our great civilisation”.
“While this complaint is patently absurd, we have treated this matter seriously,” Krishna said, adding that formal protests had been registered with senior government officials in Moscow.
“We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilisational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately,” he said.
“Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, first published in 1968, is a translation of and commentary on the original text by Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Hare Krishna movement.
Hare Krishna members have linked the court case to the Russian Orthodox church, which they claim wants to limit their activities in Russia.
On Monday, the Indian parliament had to be adjourned amid uproar over the issue and protesters gathered outside the Russian consulate in the eastern city of Kolkata.
The Siberian court has postponed its judgement on the case until December 28.
In a statement on Monday, the Russian ambassador to India, Alexander Kadakin, voiced his concern and sadness that the case was ever allowed to reach the court.
“It seems that even the lovely city of Tomsk has its own neighbourhood madmen,” Kadakin said.
“I consider it categorically inadmissible when any holy scripture is taken to the courts. For all believers these texts are sacred,” he added.
New Delhi and Moscow have enjoyed close ties that date back to the 1950s.
Manmohan Singh, Indian’s prime minister, returned from an annual visit to Moscow at the weekend after sealing a preliminary deal to buy 42 jets.