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2018-11-19
Russia
RUSSIA: Leader of Krishna Consciousness punished for public chant
Court fines Kazan devotee of Vaishanivism for conducting Harinama

On November 14th, the Supreme Court of Tatarstan left in force a decision of the Soviet district court of Kazan, which on 17 September fined the leader of Vaishnavism, Maxim Murashov, 10,000 rubles for conducting a harinama (a Hindu religious ritual of group chanting of the names of god in the form of mantras or songs; often it is conducted in public places on city streets).

The ruling of the Soviet district court of Kazan says that in July the “religious group of the confession of Vaishnavism’ sent to the city executive committee a notification about conducting a public event (harinama) at the Said Galeev House of Culture “for the purpose of creating in the city a festive benevolent atmosphere by means of chanting traditional wholesome Hindu mantras and the promotion of a culture of a healthy lifestyle.” The form of the conduct the action is “festive street singing with a procession, accompanied by playing musical instruments and dances.”

A special investigative agent of the Center for Combating Extremism (E Center) established that on 21 July near the House of Culture “an assembly of people was conducted who were dressed in accordance with the rules of this religious group.” “The men were dressed in dhoti and the women in saris. Some of the people participating in the harinama had on their forehead a ’tilaka’ and ‘urthapundara’ (in the form of a red spot, which means that the body is the temple of god and also is a symbol of allegiance to the god Krishna),” the agent of the E Center indicated in his report. About 20 persons participated in the event.

The organizer of the action was “a representative of the religious group of the confession of Vaishnavism,” Maxim Murashov. The decision of the Soviet district court of Kazan says that “in the process of conducting the harinama, the aforementioned persons chanted a ‘maha mantra.'”

“This song is the basic prayer practice of adherents of the aforementioned religious group. All three words constituting the maha mantra are names of Vishnu. This fact was documented by video camera by personnel of the Center for Combating Extremism of the MVD for the republic of Tatarstan,” the court’s order noted.

An assistant of the department of religious studies of K.F.U. declared that the action conducted “is a public religious activity during which the ‘maha mantra’ is continually read. “Collective reading of the ‘maha mantra’ in a public place is the equivalent of public prayer, a religious activity directed to the praise of Krishna,” the expert stated.

The expert’s explanation served as the basis for an order issued by the assistant prosecutor of the Soviet district of Kazan for opening a case of an administrative violation of law with respect to Maxim Murashov on the basis of part 1 of article 20.2 of the Code of Administrative Violations of Law of the RF—violation by the creator of a public event of the established procedure for planning or conducting of a meeting, rally, demonstration, procession, or picketing. In the judicial session the assistant prosecutor of the district asked that Murashov be held administratively accountable.

Murashov and his defense attorney did not acknowledge guilt and explained that “a public event may be conducted in any place suitable for the purposes of the event, so long as its conduct does not create a threat of the collapse of buildings and structures or another threat to the safety of participants.”

The Soviet district court of Kazan established that “during the public event, its participants chanted the ‘maha mantra,’ which is the basic prayer practice of adherents of the aforementioned religious group, the essence of which exceeds the boundaries of the chosen format of its conduct and did not concern the creation in the city of a festive benevolent atmosphere by means of chanting traditional, wholesome Hindu mantras and promotion of a culture of a healthy lifestyle.” Maxim Murashov, the court noted, “did not take steps to comply with the conditions of conducting a public event and preventing its participants from violating the law.”

Murashov’s defense attorney declared in court that “the promotion of religion is not an illegal activity; it is permitted by law.” The court noted that according to the law “On freedom of conscience and religious associations,” “worship services and other religious rituals and ceremonies are conducted without hindrance in liturgical premises, buildings and structures, and also in parcels of land on which such buildings and structures are located.”

“Since this activity occurred not in a liturgical structure or on territory adjoining it, but in a public place, then it is aimed at the propaganda of the religious teachings of the devotees of the ‘International Society of Krishna Consciousness,’ the lifesyle of devotees of the International Society of Krishna Consciousness and the liturgical practice among people who accidentally appear in this place,” the Soviet district court of Kazan indicated in its decision and it fined Maxim Murashov ten thousand rubles.

Murashov sent to the Supreme Court of Tatarstan a request to overturn the decision of the lower court. Today, 14 November, the Supreme Court left the decision of the Soviet district court of Kazan without changes and his appeal without satisfaction. (tr. by PDS, posted 16 November 2018)
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