Alarmed by persisting attempts to ban a translation of comments to Bhagavad Gita, a group of Russian scholars asked the top leadership to intervene.

In an open letter to President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the scholars asked the Kremlin duo to take the controversy under their “personal control”. The letter, signed by 20 leading philosophers, orientalists and philologists, was released in the run-up to the resumption of a trial in Tomsk against the translation of the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is”.

The court in December rejected a prosecutor's petition to ban the book “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” as “extremist” on the grounds that it incited “social hatred” and “violence against non-believers.” However, the Tomsk prosecutor appealed against the verdict and filed a modified petition exempting the canonical text from the charges of extremism and asking the court to ban the comments only.

The court was to hear the appeal on March 6, but then postponed the trial to March 20.

The Russian scholars denounced the prosecutor's efforts to label extremist the comments to Bhagavad Gita as “untrue and contrary to the traditions of Hinduism”.

“The book does not contain any signs of extremism and does not incite hatred on ethnic, religious or any other grounds. On the contrary, the book written in the commentary tradition of Bengali Vaishnavism, one of the most popular branches of Hinduism, is considered sacred by a section of believers.”

The scholars warned that the trial “discredits Russia's cultural and democratic credentials in the eyes of the civilised world and is driving a wedge in Russian-Indian relations.”

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