Idol was uncovered in building works near historic religious site
Four people were detained on Saturday under antiquities law for allegedly destroying the centuries-old statue, police in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the northwestern province of Pakistan, told The Independent.
The rare idol was discovered during construction work in a village near Takht-i-Bahi, known around the world for being the main cradle of the Buddhistcivilisation. According to initial reports, the contractor and his three labourers destroyed the statue at the behest of local religious leader.
However, a local police official told The Independent “at this moment it is not clear why and on whose directives the four accused destroyed the statue”.
The group were arrested after their video, in which they could be seen hammering a statue to pieces, went viral on social media.
Abdul Samad, the provincial director of archaeology, told The Independent the labourers were doing construction work when they discovered the statue.
“Instead of informing the archaeology department that they have found a life-sized Buddha statue, they destroyed it and made video,” Mr Samad said.
He said that the police have also taken the pieces of the statue into possession. “It was a 1,700 years old Buddha statue. Police have cordoned off the area and we will soon conduct survey whether there are more antiquities in the village or not.”
However, he denied that the four accused hammered the rare statue to pieces on the directives of a local religious leader.
In the video, the people could be heard discussing the statue while it was being destroyed.
One person says: “Look it’s a standing doll … look it’s a female and we just broke the thighs. Look this is her belly button … it’s not clean. This is the shirt … you know shirts which are long and hanging.”
Another man asks: “Is this of a Hindu or a westerner?”
A man standing next to him replies: “Hindu … this is Gautam Buddha.” Then the four men congratulate each other.
Mr Abdul Samad said the village where the destruction took place is not too far from Takht-i-Bahi. “Takht-i-Bahi is the most popular tourist destination in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where a large number of people from Sri Lanka, Korea and Japan come every year.”
By : Raza Hamdani – THE INDEPENDENT