The Buddha has brought Indian and Pakistani NGOs together on a peace promotion and heritage conservation mission ahead of 11 May elections in the neighbouring country torn by religious fundamentalism.
A Haryana-based movement to save Buddhist sites locally has made latest inroads in the Sindh province of Pakistan. It has brought back into focus a few Buddhist sites of the Sindh province the world had not known about.
The Yamunanagar-based Buddhist Forum is assisting the gram panchayat of Topra Kalan in this district of Haryana to establish an “Asoka Edicts Park”. The park will, among other edicts, include replicas of King Asoka’s rock edicts located in Manshera and Shahbazgarhi of Pakistan. Topra Park is coming up at the place where stood an Ashokan pillar, which Feroz Shah took to Delhi and is still placed in the Feroz Shah Kotla fort.
The Forum has already initiated collection of information about the ancient Buddhist sites in Sindh province on its website. The Buddhist Forum website has nine lakh visitors.
The main force behind the Forum Sidhhartha Gauri, who has made a documentary on the plight of Buddhist sites in Haryana, told this newspaper that Dr Mastoor Fatima Bukhari, professor, Department of Archaeology, Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur Sindh, Pakistan has joined the Forum and assisted in providing the essential information about the ancient sites. Gauri said, “Soon the Forum is going to create a database of ancient Buddhist heritage sites in Pakistan and will sensitise the local community on the significance of these heritage sites.”
The Forum is now working in 13 countries of South Asia in partnership with NGOs of these nations to raise awareness about Buddhist heritage offering peace dividends to turmoil-hit countries like Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan apart from tourism opportunities and better understanding.
The Forum and its partner organisations have identified several unknown ancient Buddhist sites scattered all around — 500 in Bangladesh, 136 in Nepal, 550 in India and 2,951 in Sri Lanka. The identification of such sites in Bhutan and Afghanistan is underway.
Burmese pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is supporting the Indian NGO saving the Buddhist heritage in South Asia to usher in peace, understanding and tourism.
Ancient Buddhist sites have been discovered in four provinces of Pakistan which have a great potential in developing them as important and significant tourism destinations.
The Forum through its website is projecting the present status of ancient Buddhist ruins, with the aim to attract the attention of the world community and international organisations so that they can come forward to support in restoring them. The Buddhist Forum will develop self-sustaining tourism plans with the help of local NGOs and government authorities of Pakistan to improve the status of these ancient sites and develop tourism