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Russian move to ban Gita unites Indian politicians

move to ban the Bhagwad Gita in a court at Tomsk in Russia has invited the wrath of members across the Indian political spectrum.

The case, which has been on since June, seeks the ban on a Russian translation of the 'Bhagvad Gita As it is' written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). A group linked to the Christian Orthodox Church described the text as 'extremist'.

Interestingly, the ban has seen the BJP and its ideological adversaries come together in protest. RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav (SP) and Sharad Yadav of the JD (U) demanded intervention by the Government in this regard. BJP's Murli Manohar Joshi the chorus of protests by the Shiv Sena, RJD, BSP and SP.

Javed Raza of JD (U) told this newspaper, "This move only shows the ignorance of certain groups in Russia. All political parties have got together and urged the government to protect against this. This not only hurts the sentiments of a particular community, but of Indians in general."

Speaking of the universal significance of the message of the Gita, Gopal Krishna Goswami, a member of the Governing Body Commission for International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), said, "The Gita is a non-sectarian text. It is a manual to lead a happy life. It has been translated into more than 70 international languages. It is unfortunate that people have misinterpreted the words of the Gita."

Another member of the ISKCON governing body commission from Russia, Bhakti Vigyan Goswami, spoke about the issue of a religious text being dragged to a Court of law, "A holy book should not be dragged to a Court of law. Certain majority religious groups in Russia resent the growing popularity of the Bhagvad Gita. They want to gain political mileage out of this move."

Amit Kumar Sharma, associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, expressed the liberal democratic opposition to the move to ban a book. "As a liberal democrat I oppose the banning of any book. This points to a deeper identity crisis in Russian society where the Bhagvad Gita is perceived as threatening the identity of the majority religious community" he said. Sharma, however, welcomed the united opposition to the move in India, "There is a pan-Indian sentiment attached to the Bhagvad Gita which has seen people across political parties unite."

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