India uproar at call in Russia to ban Bhagavad Gita

NEW DELHI Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:06pm IST

A member of the global Hare Krishna sect plays a trumpet during a protest outside the Russian consulate in Kolkata December 19, 2011. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri

A member of the global Hare Krishna sect plays a trumpet during a protest outside the Russian consulate in Kolkata December 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Angry MPs forced parliament to close on Monday and protesters gathered outside a Russian consulate over a Siberian trial calling for one of Hinduism's most holy books to be put on a list of banned literature that includes Hitler's Mein Kampf.

The case filed by state prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk says a translation of the Bhagavad Gita is extremist because it insults non-believers, local media in Russia say.

"We will not tolerate an insult to Lord Krishna," members of parliament shouted, until the house speaker adjourned parliament for several hours.

The Bhagavad Gita takes the form of a conversation between Krishna and Arjuna prior to a battle. Its philosophical insights were praised by Albert Einstein and forms a bedrock of the Hindu belief system.

India and Russia enjoy close diplomatic and defence ties and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned from an annual visit to Moscow at the weekend. MPs demanded to know if he had raised the issue of the trial with Russian officials.

The translation up for trial is called "Bhagavad Gita as It Is," and is central to the global Hare Krishna movement. Members of the movement link the case against the text to the Russian Orthodox Church, which they claim wants to limit their activities.

Dozens of Hare Krishna adherents in orange robes shouted slogans and danced outside the Russian consulate in Kolkata, a Reuters witness said.

More than 20,000 people signed an online petition against the trial and the word Gita was one of the main Indian trends on Twitter on Monday.

Last year, Russian prosecutors banned Adolf Hitler's 1925 semi-autobiographical book 'Mein Kampf' in an attempt to combat the growing allure of far-right politics.

Post Soviet Russia recognises freedom of religion and names four -- Russian Orthodox Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Judaism -- as the nation's main religions.

Other beliefs, particularly sects or groups that try to convert people, are sometimes subject to pressure such as court cases, efforts to break them up and limits on gatherings.

India's foreign minister will address parliament on Tuesday about the government's position with regard to the Bhagavad Gita case.

(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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