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Russian envoy denounces 'madmen' seeking ban on Gita

Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin Tuesday strongly denounced the "neighbourhood madmen" who are seeking a ban on the Bhagvad Gita in Siberia and underlined that Russia is a secular country where all religions enjoy equal respect.

"Russia, as it is known to anyone, is a secular and democratic country where all religions enjoy equal respect," the Russian envoy said in a statement after controversy over a move to ban the Gita in Russia rocked the Indian parliament.

"Even more applicable it is to the holy scriptures of various faiths -- whether it is the Bible, the Holy Quran, Torah, Avesta and, of course, Bhagvad Gita -- the great source of wisdom for the people of India and the world," he said.

"I consider it categorically inadmissible when any holy scripture is taken to the courts. For all believers these texts are sacred," the envoy stressed.

"It is not normal either when religious books are sent for examination to ignorant people. Their academic scrutiny should be done at scientists' fora, congresses, seminars, etc but not in courts," he said.

He said it was "strange" that such events are unfolding "in the beautiful university city in Siberia, Tomsk, which is famous for its secularism and religious tolerance".

"Well, it seems that even the lovely city of Tomsk has its own neighbourhood madmen. It is sad indeed," he said in a strong condemnation of some fringe elements seeking a ban on the Gita which is being heard by a court in Tomsk.

The case, which has been going on since June, seeks a ban on a Russian translation of the "Bhagavad Gita As It Is" written by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

In a last ditch effort to save the Bhagvad Gita from a ban, Hindus in Russia appealed to the Siberian court to seek the views of the nation's human rights panel on the religious text and preachings, before pronouncing its verdict.

Following their last-minute plea, represented by their advocate Mikhail Fralov, the court in Tomsk city in Siberia has given the human rights panel 24 hours to come with its deposition, following which it will deliver the verdict Tuesday.

Indians in Moscow, numbering about 15,000, and followers of the Iskcon religious movement in Russia have appealed to the Indian government to intervene diplomatically to resolve the issue.

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