New Delhi, Dec 20: In the wake of an uproar over a case in a Russian court seeking ban on Bhagwad Gita, Government today termed the complaint as “patently absurd” and expressed confidence that Moscow will resolve the matter “appropriately”.
Noting that the matter had been taken up at the “senior levels” of the Russian government, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told Lok Sabha 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,” he said, adding that the government fully shared the sentiments expressed by the members on the issue.
“We are confident that our Russian friends, who understand our civilisational values and cultural sensitivities, will resolve this matter appropriately”, the Minister said, adding “we do not want to dignify with too much attention some misdirected individuals who have filed an absurd complaint.”
Emphasising that Gita was not simply a religious text, he said, “It is one of the defining treatises of Indian thought and described the very soul of our great civilisation. The Gita is far above any cheap propaganda or attacks by the ignorant or the misdirected.”
The remark was greeted with thumping of desks by members.
After the statement of the Minister, Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded that Gita be declared a ‘national book' so that “no country would dare to insult it”.
Krishna, who had earlier laid the statement on the table of the House as he was unable to read it following an Opposition uproar over a privilege notice against Home Minister P Chidambaram, was later asked by Speaker Meira Kumar to read it out.
Kumar allowed him to read it as a “special case” only after BJP members ended their protests over the Chidambaram matter and wanted Krishna to make the statement.
The Minister said the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), which had been functioning in Russia for decades, has “faced periodic problems with respect to its properties and functioning in Moscow and elsewhere”.
He said this organisation had conveyed to the Indian Embassy that it had received a notice this June from a court in Tomsk in Eastern Siberia of a complaint filed by the Public Prosecutor's Office.
“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,” he said.
Krishna said following the initial proceedings, the court appointed a three-member expert group from University of Kemerovo in Siberia which submitted its report.
The final hearing, which was due yesterday, has been rescheduled for December 28 as the court also sought the opinion of the Russian Ombudsman on Human Rights and Indologists in Moscow and St Petersburg.
The Minister said Russian Ambassador in India Alexander Kadakin, himself a well-known Indologist, has been publicly critical of this episode.
He has said Gita is the “great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world. He also said Russia is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect”.
In the Rajya Sabha, members from all political parties including the Congress and the BJP, joined hands in condemning the move in Siberia to ban Bhagwad Gita.
The issue was raised during Zero Hour by Tarun Vijay (BJP), who said the place of Bhagwad Gita, was like that of the Sun and the Himalayas.
“Can you ban Sun and the Himalayas?” he asked.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said, “We are apprising the Russian Government. Their minister has expressed regrets.”
Vijay said the issue has brought together all political parties of the country and wanted the government to talk to the Russian Government.
He lauded RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for condemning disrespect to Gita.
Vijay said people like Albert Einstein had said that after he read Gita, everything seemed superfluous.
He wanted to know whether the issue was raised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Russian counterpart during his recent Moscow visit.
Members from all the parties, including P J Kurien (Cong) joined Vijay in condemning the move to ban Gita in Siberia.
S S Ahluwalia (BJP) said Parliament should pass a resolution which should be sent to the Russian Government against the move in Siberia.
Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan said the “entire House associates” and is one on the issue.