Urgench: Krishnaites persecuted as public enemies
In the meantime, Krishnaites clad in orange silks no longer meditate in the center of Tashkent the way they did 15 years or so ago. Everything is different now, and even the color of the traditional accoutrements may make the authorities suspicious. In any case, Krishnaites in Tashkent do not complain. They have their mantra Hare Krishna! Hare Rama! to rely on.
Their brothers in faith in the distant city of Urgench are considerably less lucky. Even the mantra does not help there. Most Krishnaites flee Urgench altogether, unable to tolerate the campaign of harassment. The impression is that the whole world has rallied against these hapless innocents who aren't even dedicated Krishnaites. There is only one faithful in all of the city, the man who observes all rites. He is left alone for the time being. Instead, the authorities riveted their wrath on whoever visits the one Krishnaite for even so innocent a purpose as asking to be given something to read.
Students interested in Krishnaism found themselves in trouble. Officers of the National Security Service battered Jalil Abdullayev, a student they wanted a confession from. Five other students were forced to sign false statements to the effect that they knew Jalil as a preacher of Krishnaism. Jalil wouldn't confess. He was battered black and blue for his "obstinacy".
"I know several officers of the National Security Service, some of them from the department that deals with confessions," Hasanov said. "They do not know what is happening. They say they sent a cable to the Committee for Religions in Tashkent and received a reply to the effect that Krishnaite books are not on the list of outlawed publications. Also importantly, this persecution campaign is waged by officers from other departments, the ones that are not supposed to handle religious matters at all. I suspect that were paid to launch this campaign."
"My own place is under surveillance. Whoever turns up at my door - no matter under how innocent an excuse - finds himself in trouble," Hasanov continued. "Jalil came over once, and the dean of his institute got a phone call the following day. "Send Abdullayev down or we will take measures," he was told in no uncertain terms. Abdullayev was summoned to the dean's office and informed that he was out because he had missed 30 hours of lectures. Jalil referred to one other student who had missed 200 hours and wasn't any worse off. He told the dean that he would complain... In short, he was merely ousted as the course leader. Abdullayev was then summoned to the local office of the National Security Service and beaten there. His interrogators wanted Jalil to make a statement that I had said something insulting against the president of Uzbekistan. Jalil refused."
"We, Krishnaites, do not watch TV. We do not even know where the president is at this or that moment. We are not interested in politics. We do not even study religion, we study the God. The Veda is knowledge of the God and we share this knowledge with others. It's science we deal in, not religion. The Constitution of Uzbekistan states that every citizen may obtain and spread information, and that's what we are doing. We spread information on the God and that does not have anything to do with preaching or religion," Hasanov said. "The National Security Service in the meantime spread the rumor that Krishnaites were bad folk to chum up with and that four young men were sacked from an institute for being Krishnaites. All of Urgench rallied against us then. Families grew scared and put their children under pressure. Readers of Vedic literature were persecuted."
Hasanov continued, "One of my acquaintances by name of Nadira was beaten and locked up at home by her own father. Nadira, 23, is a teacher. She managed to escape and made it to Tashkent where she spent the following two months at her friends'. It was only then that she summoned the courage to phone her parents. The parents said that she had disgraced them, that they disowned their daughter, and that she was a public enemy now... The police found Nadira and put her in the detention cell of the Uch-Tepe District Department of Internal Affairs. Her father and fiance travelled to Tashkent in order to have her institutionalized but the fiance rebelled at the last moment. The father then took Nadira home and locked her up again. Her young man returned to Urgench too but... In short, we do not know anything about Nadira now. We do not even know if she is alive."
"We cannot get back what belongs to us," Kurbanova said. "We approached every structure we could think of - courts and so on - but we are always told that this is our own family affair we should sort out on our own. My husband went to the police with a complaint against his father but nobody would listen to him. When the father-in-law discovered it, he branded my husband, his own son, as the Wahhabi, and he was immediately arrested. We fled to Tashkent as soon as he was released and were taken up by some friends of ours..."
"It would have been all right had we managed to register our own organization in Urgench," Hasanov concluded. "As things stand, however, it's a vicious circle. We need at least 100 signatures on the petition for registration, but who is going to sign the petition when Krishnaites and sympathizers are persecuted? People are afraid, and that means that registration is out of the question."
"As we are known as religious people, we cannot even have some tea in groups of more than three people," Hasanov said. "We are said that more than three people means an organized group i.e. an organization that is not registered. Why is it that a believer cannot visit a friend? Everyone who visits me is summoned to the National Security Service. That is why we are shunned. I do not see any way out."