By Ranjan Roy
18 Jun 2009
What is lost in terrorist attacks is much more than life. Driven by single-minded hatred towards all things they either don't know of, understand, or those that don't fit into the Pashto-centric world view, terrorists have destroyed chunks of history and today are dangerously threatening more. After the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in central Afghanistan because boss Mullah Omar had decreed all depiction in stone or paper of human and animal forms un-Islamic, the phrase archaeological terrorism was coined by scholars who had watched the carnage unfold.
The world watched with horror as the Taliban destroyed ancient sculptures in Afghanistan. The response was a helpless, collective gasp as explosives, tanks and anti-aircraft weapons blew apart two colossal images of the Buddha in Bamiyan, 230 km from the Afghan capital Kabul. Today, the same danger looms over Pakistan, which contains sites from the Indus Valley civilisation.
Last Friday's suicide attack that killed well-known Lahore cleric Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi in the seminary's office is a gruesome calling card by the Taliban that says no idea, thought or philosophy barring their own has any space.
Baitullah Mehsud's Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan has only hatred and disdain for the golden relics of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, the first of the urban civilisations built on syncretic ideas, which are anathema to the Kalashnikov-wielding Taliban. Imagine the damage caused in any attack on sites that have only in recent years started yielding pointers to the journey our modern society has traversed. Visualise the Taliban plundering the ancient site of Taxila, a few hours north of Islamabad, not far from where the Pakistan army is now fighting them.
The worries aren't mine alone. Many young men, who make a living by acting as guides to tourists told me during a visit to Taxila two years ago that they are already being frowned upon for talking about Buddhism and Buddhist history.
It's not just a doomsday scenario. I shudder at the thought of Taliban attackers plundering thorough Lahore Museum that Kipling writes about in Kim. It's something that they have done and will do. That's one more reason why this band of terrorists has to be defeated. Herat, the western Afghanistan city, fell to the Taliban even before Kabul did in 1996 and it is here that some of the teasers to the carnage of Bamiyan took place.
Journeying through Afghanistan the year Taliban captured Kabul, i smuggled myself into Herat to see some of this. Frightened residents, after ensuring it was safe to talk to me, took me to buildings where poets hid, lest they be executed for heresy. The kite-maker in a neighbourhood had run away after the Taliban destroyed his workshop and banned kite-flying as un-Islamic entertainment. And worst of all, was what i saw at the Herat museum that once housed priceless relics from the time that Alexander the Great crossed into the region. The Taliban had pillaged through the brick buildings and smashed ancient stone sculptures, pottery and glassware. Some residents had waited for the mob to go back and then sneaked in and collected whatever they could salvage. The greedier ones sold these pieces, some close to 1,000 years old, for a few hundred dollars each, but there were others who reportedly handed them over to authorities later when the Taliban were defeated.
UNESCO and governments around the world need to wake up to the danger that the building blocks of the Indus Valley civilisation and sites such as Taxila are today at grave risk. While the focus will remain on the ground battle, history too needs to be protected against terrorism.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi
URL of this page: http://www.newageislam.com/radical-islamism-and-jihad/save-history-from-terrorists--/d/1482