Indian MPs condemn Gita ‘insult’ in Russia

New Delhi : Parliamentarians across the political spectrum Monday condemned what they called an “insult” to the Bhagvad Gita after a member pointed to a report that the ancient Indian treatise was facing the prospect of being branded as “extremist” literature and banned in Russia.

MPs urged the government to ensure the religious rights of Russian Hindus are protected and an explanation is sought from Moscow over the issue, following which the Lok Sabha was promised that External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna would speak in the house Tuesday.

Angry MPs forced two disruptions of the Lok Sabha after Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab raised the issue during Zero Hour in the house and asked the government to intervene immediately because it had threatened the religious freedom of Hindus in Russia.

The house was adjourned till 2 p.m. and then till 4 p.m. Peace returned to the house after a short discussion was allowed in the Lok Sabha. At least eight MPs spoke on the matter.

Mahtab raising the issue said a court in Siberia’s Tomsk city was hearing a case filed by state prosecutors, as was reported Saturday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was on an official visit to Moscow.

The case, which has been going on since June, seeks a ban on a Russian translation of the “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon).

It also wants the Hindu religious text banned in Russia, declared as literature spreading “social discord”, and its distribution rendered illegal in Russia.

Indians in Moscow, numbering about 15,000, and followers of the Iskcon religious movement in Russia have appealed to the Indian government to intervene diplomatically to resolve the issue.

“I want to know from the government what it is doing. The religious rights of Hindus in Russia should be protected. The government should impress upon the Russian authorities through diplomatic channels,” Mahtab said, asserting that the Indian text “doesn’t preach hatred”.

Shouting the slogan “Bolo Krishna Bhagwan ki jai”, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD) said “any insult to Gita is an insult to Lord Krishna”.

“This will stir anger among millions of Krishna devotees in the world. Let this parliament pass a resolution and send a protest note to Russia against this insult,” Lalu Prasad said.

Many members recited shlokas from the Gita to assert that the book teaches the essence of life, the art of living and striving.

BJP MP Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav said India should lodge a protest with the Russian authorities and the case in the Siberian city was an “insult to the entire humanity because Gita is not a religion-specific book and it concerns all human beings”.

Arun Kumar Vundavalli of the Congress also condemned the incident but he also seized the moment to drive home the point that MPs need to learn from the Gita, be disciplined and not create disruptions in parliament.

“Let’s stick to the rule book. Gita teaches us to work without caring about returns. Let’s not fight and let the house run smoothly,” he said.

Winding up the short discussion, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.K. Bansal assured the house that S.M. Krishna will be speaking Tuesday after he gets the full details of the case. “We are all united over the issue and I respect the sentiments of the house.”

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