A year after Russia sought to ban the Bhagavad Gita, the Iskcon Krishna temple in Moscow is facing closure by the Russian government. By January 15, 2013, Iskcon monks said their Moscow temple, the only Hindu temple in Russia, would be demolished by the city authorities.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin arrives on Monday for a day of talks with the Indian government, the temple issue is likely to figure in the discussions, not least because the issue has been pursued by the foreign ministry.
Indian ambassador to Russia Ajai Malhotra has asked the Moscow authorities to give an extension to a temporary temple which is set to expire on December 31, 2012, until they complete the construction of a Vedic cultural centre. Asked about the proposed demolition, Russian ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin dismissed fears of demolition.
However, Iskcon monk Madanmohan Das said the demolition order has not been revoked, so the temple is due to come down in January, because the authorities said it "violates the urban building code" and has no legal grounds for existence.
In a statement, the temple officials said they feared that even the permanent temple would face the axe. "A source in the Moscow mayor's office said on condition of anonymity that Mayor Sergey Sobyanin also ordered to axe the permanent temple project, which Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit and previous Moscow mayor Yuri Luzhkov had included in a joint declaration in 2006 as a symbol of cultural cooperation between the cities. Following the declaration, Indian ambassador Ajai Malhotra laid the cornerstone for the new project earlier this year," the statement said.
This year, Russia plans to push for land from the Indian government for a Russian orthodox church in Delhi. In 2004, Moscow's Iskcon temple was demolished and the Iskcon group was offered another plot to build a temple. Reports said the offer was withdrawn after Russian orthodox church members protested against the temple building plans.
Last year's Bhagavad Gita trial had brought Lok Sabha to its feet and in a rare move, Parliament had collectively asked Russia to prevent the ban. The latest issue of demolition promises to put another wrinkle in the bilateral relations.