Hare Krishna village in Kazakhstan - fears of further demolition

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A number of properties in a Hare Krishna village in Kazakhstan were demolished on November 21, by the local authorities, causing international outrage by religious freedom groups and Hindu associations alike. Since the attack fears are now rising within the community of further demolition to the remaining properties, including the main temple structure.

"The community is in shock, but they are determined to defend their homes and place of worship," community member Govinda Swami told Forum 18 News Service. He says destruction of the temple would be "devastating".

The authorities in Kazaksthan claim that the Hare Krishna devotees had no official right to their homes. However human rights activists Ninel Fokina and Andrei Grishin, state in reply that while 13 out of the 66 Hare Krishna homes were destroyed on court orders, "the adjacent houses of other people who do not belong to the Society for Krishna Consciousness were left untouched even though their title deeds have the same status".

The Hare village itself, known as 'Sri Vrindavan Dham commune' (named after Vrindavan forest in India is based in the Keskelen district, in the town of Seleksia, close to Almaty. It was the only village of it's type run by Hare Krishna devotees in the country.

According to human rights activist Yevgeni Zhovtis: "Unfortunately Kazakh law does not prohibit evictions during the winter period and also does not oblige the court bailiffs to give those being evicted a few days notice," "All the same, there were crude violations of the law. The court bailiffs had the right to evict the residents of the houses but not to demolish the buildings themselves. It was also a very crude violation to throw the belongings of the Krishna devotees into the mud. The court bailiffs were obliged to put the devotees' belongings into store."

Local journalist Grishin claims to have had his camera confiscated by the Police and to have been threatened "If I see you here again, I will personally smash your eyes, even though I am the hakim."

Protests are being made by Hindu groups and members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness around the world in an attempt to halt any further demolition or other forms of alleged religious persecution. Groups within the UK have brought the issue to the attention of both Tony Blair, and the House of Commons.

One of the Indian political parties, Bharatiya Janata Party criticised the central government for keeping silence over the issue. The party is expected to follow the saffron brotherhood agenda in the second term of Rajnath Singh.

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