A Legal Triangle around Srimad Bhagavat Gita. By Fr. Anand Muttungal
31 Jan 2012
From time immemorial Hindus hold Bhagwat Gita in the highest regard as the Holy Scripture. It is believed to be the divine discourse by the Supreme Lord Krishna Himself. It is believed to be the most popular scripture among all the sacred scriptures of Hindu religious traditions and even among the followers other religions. Every spiritual person regardless of religion holds the view that Bhagwat Gita is one of the most important scriptures that provides spiritual knowledge of the purpose and goal of human existence.
In the month of December 2011 the people of India went through an anticipated anxiety over the move to ban Bhagwad Gita by a Siberian court in Tomsk city in Russia. The Russian translation of the book ‘Bhagwat Gita’ translated by Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) was being sought to be banned by a court for reportedly spreading "social discord".
The issue attracted protests from many Hindu organizations across the globe including Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajarang Dal, Muslim and Christian organizations. The Lok Sabha proceedings were disrupted repeatedly and Speaker adjourned the House twice. Mr. Lalu Prasad said the government should lodge a strong protest with Russia, adding “insult to Lord Krishna and the Gita will not be tolerated.’’ The members of Shiv Sena, BJP, RJD, BSP, SP and Congress sought an immediate intervention by the government.
Besides this Mumbai High Court hearing a petition on the same issue directed the Union Government to take appropriate steps to avoid untoward incident. Responding to the petition the council for the Petitioners Counsel M I Sethna said, “It is a grave insult to our culture, it would cause irretrievable damage to the country’s and rich culture and heritage”. Following these protests across the Country Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had met Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin to convey its concern regarding the matter. The matter came to rest with the Russian Court dismissing the petition seeking ban.
During this time a different matter related to Bhagwat Gita was pending before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. In the Month of May 2011 while reviewing the education ministry the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh announced that teachings of Bhagwat Gita will be taught in the schools. The announcement inclusion of Bhagwat Gita alone into the educational curriculum drew protest from socio-political and faith based organizations. An RTI quarry with the department revealed that they were working on the announcement made by the Chief Minister rather than a Government Order for the same. So the faith based and secular organizations persuaded with the Government. But when all options ended the Catholic Bishops’ Council approached the Jabalpur High Court asking to direct the State Government to introduce an optional subject with the moral teachings of all religions. The High Court asked the petitioner’s counsel to read Bhagwat Gita and come. Mean while Chief Minister made another announcement to include teachings of all religions in the curriculum. In this regard too no order has been issued. The pending PIL again came up for hearing in the end of January 2012 which delivered a judgment that draws many questions. .
If we read the media reports between the lines it makes one feel that probably the HC wanted to clear the way for the teaching of Gita Saar in schools. The Court’s interpretation that “Article 28 (1) we find that it does not ban moral instruction dissociated from any denominational doctrines…. Gita is essentially a book on Indian philosophy not book on Indian religion”, is absolutely correct. But the verdict has thrown a serious question on the issue of age old tradition and belief that Srimad Bhagavat Gita is the most revered Holy Scripture of Hindu religion stands shattered. Will any scripture be able to replace Bhagwat Gita in the minds of people?
The Government is silent on the verdict; a Minister of the Government who said in a public function that Gita is a religious scripture changed his view within hours. The whole lot of Hindu organizations, political establishments and social organizations are silent on the issue. In the case of a possible ban on Gita in a Russain Court, Pravin Togadia stated that “Bhagwat Gita is not just a book but is (God) for the Krishna devotees and all Hindus.” Why did it not apply here, We need to wait and see the implications and far reaching ripples of this holy silence within and outside the country in the years to come.