Chandigarh: Bamiyan Buddha destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan during their rule may have a reason to laugh as a section of Kashmiri Muslims have launched a campaign to save Buddhist sites in the state. Timre is a similarity between the Buddhist heritage in Kashmir and the one found in Bamiyan as both represent the Gandhar art promoted during the Kushana period, deputy director of Jammu and Kashmir archaeology Mohmmad Shafi Zahid told The Times of India on Thursday. The effort to re-explore and popularize the sites has started in the public domain with the effort of Sirajuddin-Salam of Kashmir Humal3ity Foundation who has launched a signature campaign in Baramuila district that was once violence-hit. Salam who initially faced suspicious questions has started getting a good response to save these monuments to project Kashmir’s composite culture as against the hardliners would like the world to believe. Salam told The Times of India from Kashmir, “When questions arose, I explained to the people that these sites related to Buddhist saints like the one we have in Sufi Islam that is dominant in Kashmir. This explanation went down well with the people and they joined the campaign.” Around 80 people at Naushera in Barãmulla and 200 at Gantamulla have already signed the document appealing to the government and the people to protect the rich heritage. There are at least 52 sites that need protection, he said. Salam said, “Kashmir’s know well about tourism and when they are told that protection of these sites wiil bring tourists from entire East Asia, including China, Japan and Thailand, they also see employment opportunities.” Salam’s love for Buddhism was discovered recently when a Yamunanagar-based documentary makercum-Buddhist campaigner Sidhartha Gauri approached him to collaborate with the Yamunanagar man who is running a campaign to save Buddhist sites through a net campaign and his documentary displaying the poor condition of these places.
Suspicious of how the people in Kashmir will respond to the campaign, Gauri approached Salam asking the latter to visit around 12 important sites and photograph them in the present condition and compare them with old pictures. When Salam visited those sites, he fell in love with the cultural heritage of Kashmir Gauri’s website is getting tens of thousands of responses from the world over, especially from the United States. Except, Zahid’s rare attempt to find out Buddhist sites which maybe 750, no serious attempt was made to popularize them since the 12th century, Gauri told The Times of India.
Gauri said when Salam tried to locate the Ushkur site of the Kushanapenod, he could not find it as the site had gone into a new district and the record showed it in the old district. Salam said when he finally went to the site, gamblers were playing there and as he started clinking pictures, they ran away only to return a while later finding that it was the site not they who were being photographed.
The campaigner said children were playing cricket and football at the historic sites with nobody to top them. The stones placed at the site were arranged to make wickets. At Srinagai Pandrithan site has become just a pile of garbage as people throw their waste at the site. Gauri said, “if you compare old and new pictures of Parihaspora at Baramulla, you found that the protection wall around the foundation has disappeared leaving only a platform at the base.” Kashmir has monuments of king Kanishka’s period that saw Kanishka’s presence in central Asia, Takshila and Afghanistan also. In fact, Kanishka organized a Buddhist council meeting. at Srinagar to promote Buddhism.