Prosecutors in Tomsk are seeking through the courts to have the Russian translation of the most important work for Hare Krishna devotees, the Bhagavad-Gita As it Is , declared "extremist" and placed on the Federal List of Extremist
An 'expert' analysis completed in October 2010 by three academics at Tomsk State University, Sergei Avanesov, Valeri Svistunov and Valeri Naumov, found that the book contains signs of incitement of religious hatred and humiliation of
an individual based on gender, race, ethnicity, language, origin or attitude to religion .
The analysis claimed the book humiliated those who did not believe in or even know about Krishna or follow Krishna's teachings. It claimed that the
author propagated the exclusivity and superiority of his faith and was hostile, insulting and humiliating about other faiths [Just like any other supposedly holy book then] . It also claimed that the author called for
hostile or violent acts against women and non-Hare Krishna devotees.
This case is more than important for us - it is vital, Hare Krishna lawyer Mikhail Frolov told Forum 18: This is the most important development in the whole history of
our movement in Russia. They are trying not just to declare our book extremist, but our religious teaching also. If they succeed, our community throughout Russia could be declared extremist.
Meanwhile, an appeal court in Dagestan, while
upholding a three-year suspended prison term on Ziyavdin Dapayev, has ruled that works by the late Muslim theologian Said Nursi should be handed to the Dagestan Muslim Board for a decision on the question of the destruction of the banned books and
Prosecutors in Russia's Siberian city of Tomsk have insisted that a Russian translation of the book on a Hindu scripture called Bhagavad-Gita As It Is should be banned as extremist literature, filing an appeal against an earlier court ruling
not to ban the book, a court spokeswoman said.
In late December 2011, a Siberian district court rejected a petition by prosecutors seeking a ban on the book. The petition was originally filed in June that year and the trial has prompted a flurry
of criticism in international media.
Bhagavad Gita As It Is , a translation and commentary of the original Bhagavad Gita Hindu scripture, was written by the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) A.C.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Prosecutors have claimed the book promotes extremism and social discord .
India has expressed concerns over the prospect of Russia banning the book, urging the Russian government to quickly resolve the issue.
A Russian court has dismissed an appeal supporting the ban of an edition of the Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita As It Is , in a case that triggered protests in India. The book is a used by the Hare Krishna movement.
In December, a court
in the Siberian city of Tomsk had rejected a plea by prosecutors to rule the edition to be "extremist" and therefore banned.
Prosecutors had filed an appeal in the higher court against the decision and so as to re-impose the ban.
The controversial commentary on the text was written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. Followers in Russia saw the case as part of efforts by the Russian Orthodox Church to restrict their activities.
The Bhagvad Gita, one of the most popular texts for Hindus, takes the form of a conversation between the god Krishna and prince Arjuna.
The development most threatening to freedom of religion or belief in the Russian Federation is misapplication of the federal 2002 Extremism Law against those the authorities dislike. Such violations have increased dramatically since 2007 under both
Presidents Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev.
Two provisions of Russia's federal Extremism Law of 2002 are typically used to criminalise legitimate religious activity. Prosecutors interpret one definition of extremism -- propaganda of the exclusivity, superiority or lack of equal worth of an individual on the basis of their .. religious .. adherence or attitude to religion
-- as covering claims that a particular religion or belief is superior to others. However, the right to make such claims is a fundamental part of the internationally recognised right to freedom of religion or belief.
Prosecutors may also insist that such claims fall foul of a second definition of extremism in the Law -
incitement .. of religious discord . The Code may consequently be used to prosecute simple disagreement. When committed by an ordinary member of the public, and even if unaccompanied by violence or the threat of violence, the maximum punishment
under Article 282 is two years' imprisonment.
Initially, the 2002 Law stipulated that incitement of religious discord had to be committed in connection with violence or the threat of violence. Prosecution of activities that
had no association with violence became easier, however, when this stipulation was removed in July 2007.
The 2002 Law's main mechanism for prosecuting the offence of criticising a religion or belief is the designation of
literature containing such criticisms as extremist. Even a very low-level court may issue such a ruling. If not successfully challenged, this results in automatic placement of the offending literature on the Federal List of Extremist Materials. Once on
the List, distribution is banned throughout Russia. Religious organisations associated with particular titles may also be ruled extremist. Their members are then liable to prosecution under two articles of the Criminal Code concerning organisation of
extremist activity (Articles 282.1 and 282.2). The harshest punishment these articles allow is six years' imprisonment.