Kazakhstan Devotee Farms Confiscated, Dachas Bulldozed
BY: IGOR ROTAR
Apr 27, KAZAKHSTAN (FORUM 18) KAZAKHSTAN: Farm confiscated, dachas bulldozed, rest of Krishna commune to follow?
On 25 April, in the wake of a regional court ruling last year, court executors - backed by OMON special police - bulldozed five Hare Krishna-owned dachas at their commune on the outskirts of Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty. Rati Mandzhari (Yekaterina Levitskaya) of the Hare Krishna community complained to Forum 18 News Service that officials gave less than the required five days notice of the demolition. But an official defended the demolitions, claiming that it was all "perfectly legal". The Hare Krishna community believes the authorities have been trying to destroy the commune since the community bought a farm in 1999 and then bought nearby dachas. Last month a court ordered the farm to be confiscated with no compensation and a district court has ruled that five more Hare Krishna-owned dachas are to be confiscated. Only Hare Krishna-owned dachas have been targeted for confiscation and destruction.
A Kazakh official has defended the bulldozing on 25 April of five dachas which make up part of the Hare Krishna commune on the outskirts of the commercial capital Almaty, the only such commune in any former Soviet republic. "It was last year that the regional court took the decision to demolish five dachas which were not the private property of the Krishnaites," the official told Forum 18 News Service on 25 April. "The Krishnaites were warned several times to move out of the dachas, so today's demolition is perfectly legal." The Hare Krishna community complain not only about the demolition, but that the court executors gave them only a few hours notice, not the five days required by law. Rati Mandzhari (Yekaterina Levitskaya) of the Kazakhstan Society for Krishna Consciousness told Forum 18 on 25 April that community members are now worried that five more devotees may soon see their dachas confiscated and possibly destroyed. "It looks as if the district authorities are consistently confiscating dachas from members of the Krishna community."
The court in Keskelen district has also ruled that other Hare Krishna devotees are to have their dachas confiscated. The devotees have appealed against the decision to the regional court, but hold out little hope. "Bearing in mind that the regional court backed the decision of the district court about the previous five dachas, there is a real danger that soon five more of our members are going to lose their dachas too," Levitskaya warned.
In the wake of the 2005 Almaty regional court decision, court executors in Karaisky district, a suburb of Almaty, started demolishing the five Hare Krishna-owned dachas on 25 April. Members of the community had barred access to the dachas, so the court executors had to call in the assistance of the OMON special police. "It was only on 24 April that we received written notification that the dachas were to be demolished, but the law says they have to give us written notification five days in advance," Levitskaya told Forum 18.
Levitskaya complained to Forum 18 of the authorities' arbitrary decision to target the devotees. She pointed out that the five dachas were confiscated allegedly because the devotees were not the private owners of the land while only about a dozen out of the 120 members of this horticultural collective own their own land. None of the non-Hare Krishna residents has been affected. "It's specifically members of the Krishna community who are having their dachas confiscated." She said that the devotees have tried to privatise their dachas, but that the district authorities "simply won't allow them to".
Hare Krishna devotees formed the commune after buying a 47.7-hectare [118 acre] piece of land with a farm in 1999 and started buying up dachas in the Ptitsevod horticultural collective near the farm. Trouble with the authorities started more or less as soon as the commune was set up.
As well as challenging devotees' ownership of their dachas, officials have also challenged the community's ownership of the farm, claiming that its previous owners had unlawfully changed the land's registered use. On 29 March Almaty regional court decided to confiscate the farm without compensation, a decision the Hare Krishna community says was taken long after the expiry period for challenges to lawful ownership can be taken.
Levitskaya insists that the state is "trying to reduce the whole action to a mundane economic dispute" and notes that all the court documents stressed the religious affiliation of the owners. She believes the local authorities are annoyed that there is a Hare Krishna commune in Kazakhstan and also that material gain may be motivating officials (see F18News 19 April 2006 ). (END)
[For more information, see the Kazakhstan Palace of the Soul community website.