India has reacted strongly to reports of vandalism and defacement of ancient Buddhist rock carvings in Gilgit-Baltistan under Pakistan’s control. Official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said the incidents which happened in an area known for its Buddhist carvings shows Pakistan is dismantling the “invaluable Indian Buddhist heritage” there.
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“It is a grave concern that the Buddhist symbols are being destroyed and the religious and cultural rights and freedoms are being trampled with impunity in the Indian territories under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Egregious activities of this nature which display contempt for the ancient civilisational and cultural heritage are highly condemnable,” said Mr. Srivastava calling upon Pakistan to vacate Gilgit-Baltistan which India considers part of Jammu and Kashmir.
The statement has brought focus on the priceless Buddhist heritage of Gilgit-Baltistan found in the rock carvings and engravings especially in areas like Hunza which were part of the Buddhist circle covering Ladakh and Tibet. The engravings have been in news recently also because of the Diamar-Bhasha hydro power project that the Chinese and the Pakistani companies will construct nearby.
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Locals have been carrying on an online campaign protesting against the hydro power project as it may endanger the Buddhist heritage. “We have again called upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all illegally occupied territories and end gross violation of political economic and cultural rights of people living there,” said Mr .Srivastava reiterating India’s territorial demands on Gilgit-Baltistan.