The Stalin-era building near Begovaya metro station, which has served as a temple for the mostly Indian and Russian congregation for the past 13 years, is now encircled by a 3-meter-high fence as the wrecking ball prepares to swing.
“This is the only place in Moscow where we can practice our rituals,” said Sanjeet Jha, president of the Association of Indians in Russia. “But with this fence and the threat of all communications being cut off in the near future, this is becoming a religious ghetto.”
In April, City Hall promised to provide an alternative site for the construction of a Vedic Cultural Center, including a place of worship for members of the Russian chapter of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
The site, a hectare of land on Leningradsky Prospekt next to the CSKA sports stadium, would accommodate up to 700 worshipers, the community’s spokesman Igor Anikanov said.
But the new center has attracted protests from lawmakers and other religions. A group of State Duma deputies, calling itself “In Support of Traditional Spiritual and Moral Values in Russia,” together with the Inter-Religious Council, has decried the proposal.
“Russia has only four traditional religions: Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Buddhism,” said Oleg Yefimov, the group’s secretary. “This is confirmed by Russia’s 1,000-year history.”
Hare Krishna followers and traditional Hindus alike are worried about the future of their communities if a new center is not found.
“Not only Indians, but all people practicing Hinduism will be cut off from their culture and religion,” Jha said. “We have children we want to raise with a knowledge and understanding of their culture. And where will they go if this place is no longer present?”
Anikanov said the Hare Krishna community has a consistent record of charity work, providing free food to people affected by the conflict in Chechnya and opening a Hindu school.
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