- Heritage lovers scream it's cultural carnage
- Maneesh Pandey
NEW DELHI (March 2, 2001): Indian heritage experts and lovers are shell-shocked
at the Taliban's demolition spree. Dismissing it as ``cultural carnage'' driven by ``sheer
fanaticism'', they called for a cautious approach in the face of such vandalism.
Calling it ``pathetic'', R. Sengupta, former director of ASI who served long in
Afghanistan as part of Indo-Afghan restoration project, described the situation as
"particularly sad for India. They were some of the finest specimens of Buddhist
civilisation and culture,'' he said.
Some feel this act may be more than a cultural issue. According to Asish Banerjee of
INTACH: ``The whole action has a political motive''. He didn't elaborate it further but
few others, requesting anonymity, were unanimous in saying that it might spill over in our
lands and Kashmir may be the new theatre.
``It's extremely tragic'' says S K Singh, India's ex-ambassador to Afghanistan. ``The
destruction of any global property is an issue of utmost concern. They have not only
destroyed the world-famous heritage but shattered the sentiments of millions of Buddhist
followers,'' he adds.
The sites targeted are Bamiyan, - home to the two ``tallest standing Buddhas'' and
other Buddhist masterpieces - the Kabul museum, Ghazni, (from where a sculpture of Mahisasura
Mardini, Goddess Durga slaying the demon buffalo, dating 7th to 8th century AD was
unearthed), Herat, Jalalabad and Kandahar.
The UNESCO office here has condemned it as an extremist act. Prithviraj Perera,
director of culture in UNESCO, said the previous government had in fact proposed the
Bamiyan Buddha statues for nomination as world heritage to UNESCO's World Heritage
Committee. This could be an act of vengeance too, he said. ``The whole world will react
with indignation but those who respect the dignity and rights of other cultures, will not
react by similar destructions,'' said Perera.
R C Agarwal of ASI called it a destruction of human creations and a big blow to the
ethos of the land. ``It's not the matter of like and dislike. The world cherished it. What
would happen if the non-Islamic countries start destroying Islamic architecture?'' he
Radha Banerjee of IGNCA takes the demolition as a big blow to Buddhism - known for
compassion and friendship. She said: ``It was through Afghanistan, Buddhism spread to
various countries, including Iran, Central Asia and China. The style of the Colossal
Bamiyan Buddha inspired the Colossal Buddha of Yungang of China. Such a cultural diffusion
was made possible through that land only and what's happened today is painful.''