By Anupama Handoo
My uncle was furious. He was looking through his prized collection of National Geograhics’ for a special edition about Bamiyan Buddhas. He wanted to show me how glorious these were and compare those beautiful pictures to the grim headlines of the day’s newspaper – ‘Bamiyan Buddhas destroyed’. I wasn’t particularly young or naïve, I understood that an act of religious fanaticism had destroyed a monument of world heritage. I had seen this fanaticism with my own eyes in 1989-90 when several Hindu temples were destroyed and desecrated in Kashmir. I was hurt and pained but not enough to loose sleep, refuse food and swear in monologue: I thought that my uncle had lost his mind. I believed that loss of inanimate symbols should never drive sensible people to frustration. I was wrong. Symbolism IS important .
When we were denied the Kausar Naag pilgrimage in 2014, I felt just like my uncle. He had never been to Afghanistan to see the Bamiyan Buddhas – I had never done the Kausar Naag pilgrimage… but the underlying frustration was probably the same… who gave them the right to rewrite history… all over again?
Every time the fanatics desecrate a temple or rename it, an attempt is made to wish away history. With every pilgrimage denied and disrupted, they are denying us our roots. Kashmir was Kashyap V:r much before the influence of Persians. Most of the population can still trace their lineage to Hindu families who were forcibly converted to Islam over the years. Why then this mindless whitewash of heritage? The denial of religious and cultural symbolism may appear to remove undesirable chapters from history – but not for long. In the age of Facebook and Twitter, any denial will come to bite back manifold. It will not be easy to erase the Kashmiri Hindu existence from the history of Kashmir. In the process, the links will get stronger and undeniable. Long after they were mindlessly destroyed, Bamiyan Buddhas have not been forgotten – neither will be Martand Temple, Shankaracharya Hill, or KausarNaag….