NEW DELHI: Aghast over a Siberian court’s move to ban the Bhagavad Gita in Russia, Indian and international legal eagles, including those working with the United Nations (UN), have taken up the battle against Tomsk city state prosecutors’ case that is coming up for a verdict on Wednesday.
Among the international forums that have made a plea before the Tomsk court is the NGO Committee on Spirituality, Values and Global Concerns, which has consultative relations with the UN in New York that is “supportive” of the Bhagavad Gita and the Hindus in Russia, who may be affected if the court bans their holy religious text.
Writing to Federal Judge GE Butenko of Leninsky district court of Tomsk city, the committee’s chair Sharon Hamilton-Getz said, “Our hearts are opening wide in the recent suffering we have heard of, due to the trial over ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ taking place in Russia, which may result in the ban of this book, and we would like to be supportive of this holy scripture and the people who will suffer from such a ban.”
Hamilton-Getz also noted that the Bhagavad Gita is “one of the greatest spiritual texts, and the ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ edition, with interpretative commentary provided by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Iskcon founder), is not only highly regarded, but well known for instilling peace to all those who read it, due to its clarity, literal accuracy, and religious insight.”
In her written deposition submitted to the court, which has been acquired by IANS, Hamilton-Getz also noted that core objectives and principles stated in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) have inspired a rich body of legally binding international human rights treaties and human rights development worldwide.”
“It continues to be an inspiration to us all whether in addressing injustices, in times of conflicts, in societies suffering repression, and in our efforts towards achieving universal observance of human rights,” she said.
In a parallel effort from India, a Supreme Court advocate from Hammurabi and Solomon, Manoj Kumar, who is also the general secretary of the Society of Indian Law Firms (SILF), has prepared a note for the advocates of Hindus in Russia fighting the case in Tomsk city, which refers to international obligations and commitments that Russia is a signatory to.
Apart from the UN Charter (1945) and the UDHR (1948), to both of which Russia is a signatory, the country is a party to the Convention against Discrimination in Education (1960), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966), the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination on Religion or Belief (1981), the Convention on Rights of Child (1989), and the Declaration on the Right to Development (1986), according to Manoj Kumar’s document, a copy of which is with IANS.
While the UN Charter, UDHR, and others, are only recommendatory in nature, the conventions against discrimination in education, elimination of all forms of racial discrimination, and on civil and political rights are mandatory in nature and Russia would have to follow them, the note said.
Another coalition of Indian advocates, led by Supreme Court lawyer KV Dhananjay, has written to External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna to impress upon the government the need for the government to immediately intervene by moving the Tomsk court against the move to ban the Bhagavad Gita.
Referring to the IANS story that first highlighted the Tomsk city case and likely ban on the Bhagavad Gita and to brand it as “extremist” literature, Dhananjay said in his letter that the coalition of advocates “deemed it expedient to ask the Indian government to consider endorsing the effort of a suitable private entity,” like the coalition, to represent the religious doctrine of India before the Russian court.
The Tomsk court is scheduled to hear the Russian human rights ombudsman, which is expected to plead against the ban on the Bhagavad Gita, before delivery of its verdict in the case that has been going on since June this year.