As the battle over a Russian translation of Bhagavad Gita continues, Russian scholars came out strongly in support of the book and condemned attempts to ban it as extremist literature. Over 60 Russian scholars gathered in the Siberian city of Tomsk for a conference on Bhagavad Gita. It adopted a resolution that voiced alarm over a court trial against the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” and stressed “the enduring historic value” of the ancient Indian scripture.

A court in Tomsk in December rejected a local prosecutor’s petition seeking a ban on “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” on the grounds that it incited “social hatred” and “violence against non-believers”. However, the Tomsk prosecutor has appealed against the verdict and the court is to hear his appeal on March 6. In a new petition the prosecutor is demanding a ban only on the Russian translation of comments in the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, not the canonical text itself.

Russian scholars welcomed the Tomsk court verdict and said the prosecutor’s appeal was groundless because religious texts cannot be tried for extremism. They accused experts who prepared testimony against Bhagavad Gita of incompetence and bias and called for establishing an independent body of scholars and experts in religion, philosophy and social sciences, who would prepare objective and competent reviews of various texts. The scholars warned of “grave consequences the continuation of the trial may have for our friendly relations with India.”

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