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MPs take up Moscow's 'temple ban' issue

The campaign by various bodies against the reported remark by Archbishop Nikon on Lord Krishna is fast gathering momentum.

india Updated: Jan 18, 2006 11:48 IST
UK Bureau
UK Bureau

The campaign by various organisations in Britain against the reported remark by Archbishop Nikon of the Russian Orthodox Church describing Lord Krishna as an "evil demon"has now become more intense with Mayor of Greater London Ken Livingston and members of Parliament taking up the issue.

It is said the insulting remarks about Lord Krishna were made around the time Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a state visit to Russia was being welcomed by President Putin.

Mayor Livingstone has handed over letters expressing concern about the alleged harassment of Russian Hindus by the Moscow Government and the Russian Orthodox Church to the visiting Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov in London this week.

British Parliamentarians led by Ashok Kumar MP, Lord Dholakia and Baroness Flather have also decided to host the launch of the Defend Russian Hindus campaign at the House of Commons on January 18.

British Parliamentarians and members of the Hindu, Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities are set to adopt a resolution at the Defend Russian Hindus launch in the House of Commons, urging the Moscow Government to stop harassment of minority religions in Russia. Parliamentarians from all three parties will later hand a copy of this resolution to the Russian Ambassador in London.

Parliamentarians from all three parties are also expected to join members of the Hindu, Jewish and Christian communities on a visit to Russia later this year to express their concerns on the treatment of minority faith communities.

The problem dates back to 2004 when Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov had signed a decree allocating land in northwest Moscow for construction of a new temple in place of an older Hindu temple, which had been demolished for construction of a commercial venture. This was followed by mass protests orchestrated by the Russian Orthodox Church against the building of the temple in the newly allocated land.

In October 2005 the Mayor repealed the decree and cancelled the allocation of land and further ordered the removal of a temporary Hindu shrine that some devotees had erected from the newly allocated land. During this time, miscreants who had heard of Orthodox opposition to Russian Hindus entered a Hindu temple and beat 30 people including women and children with iron rods, who were hospitalised with fractured skulls.

"The only Hindu temple in Moscow had been demolished last year, leaving some 15,000 Indians and 10,000 Russian followers of Hinduism without a place of worship," said Ramesh Kallidai, secretary general of the Hindu Forum of Britain, one of the organisations hosting the meeting. "Now the Mayor of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church are together trying to stop Hindus from having a place of their own.

"It is unbelievable that in a country as industrialised and modern as Russia, we are seeing religious intolerance of a level reminiscent of medieval times. We urge people of all faith traditions to intervene and stop this kind of outrageous behaviour against the peace-loving Hindus of Russia. The international communities continue to monitor the situation closely."

There are over 100,000 Hindus in Russia. In Moscow alone, there are 5000 Hindus of Indian origin and over 10,000 Hindus of Russian origin.

Excerpts from Ken Livingstone's letter to Yuri Luzhkov

"We are writing this letter on behalf of 270 Hindu organisations that are affiliated formally as members of the Hindu Forum of Britain, the representative body of the Hindu community in UK.

After learning of the allocation of land to the Hindu temple, some members of the Russian Orthodox Church orchestrated mass protests and started a misinformation campaign against Hindus in the Russian media. Many Hindus were victimised, threatened, bullied, and even beaten and subject to violence in different regions of Russia.

The Hindu community in the UK and other parts of the world were very unhappy to learn that in October 2005, the Moscow Government cancelled the land order and took away the piece of land given for the construction of the Hindu temple citing a small technical detail that could easily have been rectified. Now, the 15,000 Hindus in Moscow have no place to worship.

The consecrated Deities of Radha and Krishna will have no home. The pattern of events suggests a planned and orchestrated scheme to subjugate the freedom of worship of Russian Hindus and to deny them a basic place where they can congregate peacefully and pray.

To add to this, around the time of Indian Prime Minister's state visit to Moscow to meet Russian President Putin, Archbishop Nikon, a leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, called the Hindu God, Lord Krishna an 'evil demon, the personified power of hell opposing God", and "a livid lascivious youth.

Hindus all over the world have reacted with outrage and shock at these comments of the Archbishop, and disbelief to note that a great country like Russia has subject religious minorities to this treatment.

We note that the Moscow Government has gone so far as to cut off gas, electricity and water to the make-shift temple on the new land, in violation of all known human rights legislation in Europe.

In addition to the event at the House of Commons, the Defend Russian Hindus campaign will be launching a three-pronged plan to communicate the situation of Russian Hindus through media, community and political networks. We are also planning a Parliamentary delegation to visit Russia in the Spring of 2006.

We will be contacting the heads of the G8 countries to take note of the treatment of religious minorities in Russia, which is poised to take over the Presidency of the G8 later this year. We would be most grateful if you could kindly look at this matter in favourable light.

Hinduism is one of the world's oldest faith traditions and has always remained peaceful and non-violent, at a time when the world is moving towards an era of tolerance, respect and understanding, it seems rather odd that the Moscow Government chooses to ignore the human rights and freedom of worship for one of the most peaceful faith traditions in the world.

First Published: Jan 17, 2006 20:16 IST