Destruction of 1,700-year-old Buddha statue in KP draws ire from many quarters

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By SHRI RAM SHAW

NEW DELHI : The five-foot-long half-buried Buddha statue, believed to be 1,700-year-old, discovered while digging the foundation for a house in Takht Bhai area of Pashtun-dominated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province’s Mardan district, was recently vandalized by some miscreants. The unfortunate incident has drawn ire from various quarters.

Daily LEAD Pakistan talked to many people in several countries to know their reactions and opinions on this incident.

Tsewang Gyalpo Arya, Information Secretary at the Department of Information and International Relations of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) said, ‘‘It is very unfortunate to hear that 1700 years old Buddha statue found in Pakistan has been destroyed. It is a great loss to the national heritage, and for the study of history and civilization of the regions. Buddha was a messenger of peace and non-violence, such display of hatred toward the statue betrays great religious intolerance. This is not good for humanity and world peace. I hope, Pakistan government will look into the matter and ask people to refrain from such bigotry acts.’’

The act also shook renowned film director Shyam Benegal who said from Mumbai that he was ‘‘deeply saddened by the gratuitous vandalism.’’

Noted ghazal singer Dev Rathore, an ardent follower of Buddha philosophy said from Mumbai, ‘‘It is undoubtedly a very sordid incident. Buddhism was founded on Lord Buddhas sublime message of love, peace and self-discipline. This philosophic vision of life has found its representation in enormous mighty stupas, impressive gateways that stand before them, and great caves hewn out of rocks, which together form perhaps the greatest art ever created in the world and they live to this day to tell the narrative of his life. Buddha is a symbol of peace. His message of love and peace is not only for India and Pakistan, but for the whole world. Literatures and everything related to him must be preserved.’’

Criticizing the ghastly act, Dr. Akbar, editor of Aag, Urdu daily being published from Lucknow, said, ‘‘Unto you is your religion and unto mine is my religion – is the unique advice in Holy Quran for Muslims. Regrettably, facts and common sense matter little in Pakistan, as a populist media and rabble-rousers within the political establishment have found a golden opportunity to pillory Minorities there. But the Islamic state has remained unmoved as millions of people there are disenfranchised by a violent, majoritarian narrative. Pakistani Muslims who raise a voice against these injustices are hounded by the Islamic establishment, with bogus cases filed against them to snuff out dissent.’’

Kapil Dev, a Human Rights activist from Peshawar said, ‘‘The area where the sordid incident took place is known for its relics since it was a part of the Gandhara civilization. Mardan district has several archaeological and Buddhist sites. Takht Bhai is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites. Many tourists and pilgrims from across the world, particularly followers of Buddhism, visit the Takht Bhai site every year. Archaeological and Buddhist sites are found in several parts of the Mardan district, including Jamal Gari of Katlang tehsil, Shebaz Gari of Mardan tehsil, Safi Abad and Sar-i-Behlol localities of Takht Bhai tehsil. The recent unfortunate incident…deliberately or unintentional…can never be justified in any way.’’

Zeeshan Faisal Khan, a sales representative and resident of Sindh said, ‘‘Two Buddhist statues had been found in Sheikh Yousaf village of district Mardan one year ago when people were digging a grave. Those statues were handed over to officials of the archeological department. There are about 450 archaeological and Buddhist sites in different parts of Mardan district. The district has several ancient sites of Buddhist monastery, but the government of Pakistan failed to take serious steps for their preservation.’’

Regretting the incident, Mrs Shanu Khan, a private firm employee and an avid reader of history said from Birmingham, United Kingdom, ‘‘The area where the incident took place is known for its relics since it was a part of the Gandhara civilisation. The history of Gandhara shows political rule of multiple dynasties over the centuries. Being a strategically located city and the centre of ancient trade routes, Taxila suffered repeated ownership conflict and was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. However, the artefacts discovered from the excavated ancient site of Taxila show a remarkable uniformity of native cultural traditions that persisted through the Achaemenid, Greek, Mauryan, Indo-Greek, Scythian, Parthian, Kushan, Han and Hindu dynasties, up to the Muslim conquest in the beginning of the mediaeval period.’’

Expressing his shock and anger, Md Ilyas Khan, a private firm employee who has a keen interest in historical artefacts, said from Monteverchi, Italy, ‘‘Under the Mauryan dynasty, with Ashoka at the helm, Taxila reached a remarkable level of development. Since Ashoka adopted Buddhism as the state religion, which prevailed for over 1,000 years right up to 10 AD, hundreds of monasteries and stupas (Buddhist shrines) were built in the ancient cities of Sirkap and Sirsukh, along the ruins of Taxila and, from here, originated the unique Gandhara art of sculpture.’’