Government of India declares in Parliament
Bhagwad Gita is the heart and soul of the great Indian civilisation?
By V Shanmuganathan
A case against Bhagwad Gita is being fought in Russian Federation in the state of Siberia. The Bhagwad Gita is facing legal ban and there are chances of its being branded as extremist literature across Russia. A court case has been going on in Russia since June 2011 asking for a ban on Russian translation of Bhagwad Gita As It Is written by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). It also wants the Hindu religious text banned in Russia and declared as literature spreading social discord. Indians settled in Russia and the followers of ISKON religious movement have appealed to the Government of India and the Prime Minister to intervene and find a solution to this problem.
Intolerant Attitude of the Orthodox Church
The aforesaid case is based on religious bias and intolerance from a few religious groups in Russia. The court case against the translation of the Bhagwad Gita in the Siberian city of Tomsk is an attempt by the Russian Orthodox Church to limit the activities of the Hare Krishna movement, branding it a totalitarian sect. Earlier this year, the authorities banned the construction of an ISKCON Community Village in the Tomsk region. Seven years ago, the Moscow city government did not allow the Movement to build a sprawling prayer-cum-cultural complex in central Moscow. Later, ISKCON was permitted to set up its centre in a Moscow Siberia.
Protest from BJP, BJD, Shiv Sena, RJD, SP and BSP
In this background, the entire Parliament took up the issue. It was raised by a senior BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab. He said through a special mention that ‘the religious rights of Hindus in Russia should be protected. Curiously, the State Prosecutor had referred the scripture to Tomsk State University for an expert examination. This University is not qualified as it lacks Indologists who study history, culture, language and literature of the Indian subcontinent. The inimitable Lalu Prasad Yadav said insulting Gita is insulting Krishna. A big conspiracy is being hatched against Lord Krishna. Lalu Yadav demanded a discussion and stern action against the Russian authorities. Dr Murli Manohar Joshi and Dr Harin Pathak supported and voiced serious concern. The uproarious scenes followed when members demanded a discussion and the Speaker had to adjourn the House many times with a promise to allow the discussion.
Mulayam Singh Yadav rose to the occasion and said Gita is a universal book accepted by the world, which guides to be a better human being and work for the good of the society. It’s a classic that teaches honesty and how to lead a sacred life. Mahatma Gandhi used to read Gita daily and most of his speeches were based on the teachings of Gita. He wanted to build the nation on the message of Gita. But the government has not taken Gita seriously and all parties will accept this fact. Government has not taken any step to propagate Gita amongst the people of the nation.
High Court says Gita may be considered as Rashtriya
Dharma Shastra ?
On September 11, 2001, the Allahabad High Court had expressed the view that it is the duty of the State to recognise Bhagwad Gita as Rashtriya Dharma Shastra, which inspired our national struggle for freedom and also all walks of life. As India has recognised national flag, national bird, national anthem and national flower, the Bhagwad Gita may also be considered as the Rashtriya Dharma Shastra. It is the duty of every citizen of India under Article 51A of the Constitution of India irrespective of caste, creed or religion to follow the dharma propounded by the Bhagwad Gita.
The view was expressed by Justice SN Srivastava while deciding on a write petition filed by priest Shyamal Ranjan Mukherjee of the Gopal Thakur Mandir of Varanasi, challenging the sale of temple properties. ?
Many others pleaded to the government to take steps for teaching Gita from the primary classes to the University level. Once this happens, the dream of Mahatma Gandhi would be realised and the people would understand the core message of Gita making India a better nation.
Shri Hukumdev Narain Yadav said the Government of India should seek explanation from Russian Government. Dr Murali Manohar Joshi said amid interruptions, that Gita is a sovereign scripture for humanity and compassion. The Prime Minister has just returned from Russia visit. We would like to request him to tell us whether he raised this matter with the Russian government. BJP, Shiv Sena, RJD, BSP, Samajwadi Party and even some members of the Congress Party sought immediate intervention by the Government. Smt. Sushma Swaraj said the Bhagwad Gita must be declared as National Book.
Statement of External Affairs Minister Shri SM Krishna
In his statement Shri Krishna said, “I fully share the sentiments expressed by the Hon’ble Members of the House on this issue.
Hon’ble Members referred to media reports about a hearing conducted by a Court in the Russian city of Tomsk on whether a Russian language commentary on the Bhagwad Gita qualifies as “extremist” literature. I would like to inform this august House of the facts of this case. ISKCON conveyed to our Embassy that its branch in Tomsk, Eastern Siberia, had received a notice in June 2011, of a complaint filed by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the local court. This complaint, apparently driven by some local individuals, was to the effect that the third Russian edition of the publication Bhagwad Gita As It Is—a translation of a commentary by Swami Prabhupada, founder of ISKCON – had certain portions that were ‘objectionable’ and ‘extremist’ in nature.
Officials of the Embassy of India in Moscow and our Ambassador have been in regular touch with the local representatives of ISKCON, since this matter came to light in June 2011. ISKCON representatives were advised to take legal recourse to counter this misdirected complaint. We have also taken up this matter at the senior levels of the Russian Government. The Ministry of External Affairs has been in regular touch with our Embassy in Moscow on this issue. The matter was also taken up with the Russian Ambassador based in India, H.E. Mr. Alexander Kadakin who is himself a well-known Indologist. In fact the Ambassador has been publicly critical of this episode. He has stated that Bhagavad Gita is a great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world. He also said that Russia is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect.
Hon’ble Members would agree that the Bhagwad Gita is not simply a religious text; it is one of the defining treatises of Indian thought and describes the very soul of our great civilisation. The Gita is far above any cheap propaganda or attacks by the ignorant or the misdirected. In Russia itself, we have many great Indologists, scholars and experts who understand the essence of the Gita and have written on it with reverence and passion. We do not want to dignify with too much attention some misdirected individuals who have filed an absurd complaint. We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilisational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately.”?