Hindu centre faces eviction in Putin`s hometown

Russia`s biggest Vedic culture centre boasting the largest Hindu temple in the region is facing eviction in a property dispute in St Petersburg.

Moscow: Russia`s biggest Vedic culture
centre boasting the largest Hindu temple in the region is
facing eviction in a property dispute in St Petersburg, the
hometown of Russian president-elect Vladimir Putin.

The owners of the eight storey building who had leased it
for 49-years to local Centre for Spiritual Development -
"Another World" -- want to terminate the deal and have managed
to seek court`s order for its eviction for allegedly violating
the fire safety rules.

However, the upper court of arbitration has stayed the
eviction till March 29 on the appeal of the centre.

Chairman of the Centre Suren Karapetyan insisted that the
Vedic culture centre involved in promoting the ancient Indian
traditions including Sanskrit and Yoga studies among the local
followers of Hinduism, had not violated fire safety rules at
any point of the 49-year lease.

"We are talking about the threat of destruction of one of
the largest Hindu Temple and the most unique cultural project,
promoting Indian culture in Russia - St Petersburg,"
Karapetyan said.

Karapetyan said at the time of lease the building was
nothing, but a block of bricks and the devotees had completed
its construction by collecting USD 1 million donation and
through `shramdaan` (voluntary labour).

Lease deal was signed in 1992 between the state-run
federal research institute, now converted into into JSC
"GosNIIkhimanalit" Joint Stock Company.

"This could be the part of the anti-Hindu campaign by a
section of Russian Orthodox Christian Church zealots, after
their demand to seek the ban on the Bhagwad Gita, otherwise I
don`t understand the move for premature termination of the
lease," Karapetyan said over phone.

Karapetyan said a letter requesting his intervention was
sent to Prime Minister Putin in January, when the new Director
of the institute wanted to convert the leased building into a
profitable business centre and hinted that one of their board
members was "a close relative of Putin".

The appeal was signed by thousands of St Petersburg

The St Petersburg-based Indian community members,
including diplomats are frequent visitors to the temple
situated on one of the floors of the building in a 500 square
meters hall, which accommodates up to 700 people during
festival times.

Unlike the ISKCON temples it has all the Hindu deities
including Radha and Krishna, Shiva and Parvati, Durga,
Ganesha, Vishnu, Lakshmi and others.

Around the temple comes a huge cultural center, known as
The city center for Spiritual Development "Another World",
which is visited by more than 20,000 people monthly for yoga,
study of philosophy, culture and traditions of India and other
ancient traditions.

Karapetyan was sentenced for `psychological sabotage`
during Soviet era for clandestine printing and distribution of
the Bhagwad Gita. He was released under Gorbachev`s
`perestroika` reforms. During his India visit after his
release he had also met Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

He has also sought help from the Indian mission in St
Petersburg. According to diplomatic sources in Moscow, the
issue is between the two Russian parties and can be decided
only in the court.

"However, we can only call for taking the sensitivities
into consideration while resolving this legal dispute by the
Russian court," a senior Indian diplomat said speaking on
condition of anonymity.