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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 questioned.

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.''


Updated: 3-3-2001

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