In a shocking incident, the ancient Buddhist rock carvings in the Chilas area of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK)’s Gilgit-Baltistan has been desecrated by Islamists, who painted Pakistani flag and slogans on the rock-cut art.
According to the reports, the incident came to light when the locals of Gilgit-Baltistan posted images on social media platforms. The Islamists had vandalised the rock carvings by writing Islamic slogans on the rock-art that belonged to 800 AD.
The Buddhist residents, who found the paintings to be fresh, said that the vandalism by the Islamists was in retaliation to the recent protests against the Diamer Bhasha dam project, a joint Pakistan-China project, which will reportedly destroy this archaeological site.
Earlier, conservationists and activists had expressed apprehension that the artefacts will get submerged in the Diamer Bhasha dam that China and the Pakistan Army are jointly constructing in the area.
Last surviving arts of Buddhist era
According to UNESCO, these carvings, including a 9-ft tall figure of the Buddha, are the last surviving references to three Buddist councils. The other sites – Hunza and Haldekush also have some more of these Buddhist carvings.
Slamming the Pakistan authorities for causing irreparable damage to these historic rocks near Chilas, Araib Ali Baig, an eminent historian of Gilgit Baltistan, tweeted, “Have such slogans and paintings been made on the Gandhara civilization which is located in the Punjab province of Pakistan from the last three thousand years before Christ or is it just to militarize the civilizations of the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan?”
Reportedly, rock carvings, which are found in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, are also present in areas along the Indus River near Ladakh, but the ancient Buddhist works found in Gilgit-Baltistan stand out for the petroglyphs (rock carvings) in hundreds of thousands. It is estimated that at least 50,000 such petroglyphs are found in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially along Karakoram Highway.
The shocking act of vandalism is reminiscent of the destruction of Buddha’s statues in Bamiyan in Afganistan by the Islamic Taliban terrorists in 2001, which had resulted in a huge uproar across the world.