Russia drops move to ban sacred Hindu text

2012-03-21 06:53

A Russian court has upheld a decision to permit the publication of a sacred Hindu text whose initial ban sparked protests in India and threatened to strain Moscow’s close ties with New Delhi.

A district court in the Siberian city of Tomsk said it had decided “to leave unchanged” a December lower court ruling stating that the “Bhagavad Gita” did not contain extremist material.

Prosecutors had been trying to ban the text’s translation for months because it contained a prologue by Swami Prabhupada – founder of the Hare Krishna movement that has had repeated run-ins with the law in post-Soviet Russia.

“This is a completely just, reasonable and – most importantly – legitimate decision,” the movement’s court representative Alexander Shakhov was quoted as saying by the Vesti news channel.

Prosecutors had asked for the ban in June after running a check on Hare Krishna’s activities in the Siberian region.

The Russian general prosecutor’s office had also conduction national checks on the movement in 2004 and 2005.

The case threatened to create an unexpected roadblock in the traditionally close relations between Moscow and New Delhi.

Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna described the prosecutors’ attempted ban as the work of “ignorant and misdirected or motivated individuals” that attacked a text defining the “very soul of our great civilisation”.

Russia’s foreign ministry had initially defended the ban by noting that it only referred to the disputed preface rather than the ancient text itself.

National prosecutors mounted a furious campaign to outlaw the text in Russia amid fears that the Hare Krishna might threaten the Russian Orthodox Church’s dominant sway in the country’s regions.

The Russian prosecutor general’s office released an assessment at the end of February concluding that the translation “had a very, very distant relation to the ancient text”.

But a group of prominent Russian scientists and the official human rights ombudsman this week called on President Dmitry Medvedev to ensure the protection of religious freedom and make a special note of the case.

A controversial 1997 law requires religious groups that had not been active in Russia for at least 15 years to register with the authorities and strictly limits foreign missionary work.

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