Friday, Apr 18, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
Brought together by SAHMAT, they issued an appeal; stating that "if there are no courts yet to punish the real perpetrators of this crime, let us all so act that the criminals will remain ever bound to the pillory in the eyes of the civilised world despite all the state-of-the-art weaponry that they might possess''.
The desecration of antiquities in Iraq, according to the ancient Indian historian, D. N. Jha, was tantamount to obliterating the history of humanity. "Iraq is often called the cradle of civilisation'', and the coalition forces, he said, turned a Nelson's eye to large-scale looting of the very institutions housing some of the most valued treasures of humankind.
Also, according to Prof. Jha, the coalition forces had not only damaged the history of humanity, but also struck at various religions by attacking Uruk one of the oldest cities of the world as it was the birthplace of Abraham who is revered by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike.
Of the view that humanity irrespective of national identities should protect history and protest such pillaging of world heritage, the former Secretary to the Union Department of Culture, Kapila Vatsayayan, wondered why international conventions providing for the protection of the patrimony of humanity had not been invoked in anticipation of such plunder.
Stating that the National Museum of Antiquities, Baghdad, was one of the biggest repositories of culture, Ms. Vatsayayan warned against the artefacts disappearing from circulation for a while and resurfacing in the market for smuggled antiquities years later. To prevent this from happening, she suggested that instead of penalising the marauders, they should be encouraged to return them and assured amnesty.
While Ms. Vatsayayan maintained that the plunder of the National Museum, the National Archives and the National Library did not appear to be a spontaneous response to the overthrow of the Saddam regime, the former Director-General of the Archaeological Survey of India, M. C. Joshi, went a step further and said the looting could have been the conspiracy of antique dealers.
Chipping in, the contemporary artist, Vivan Sundaram, said the cultural institutions were such monolithic structures that the coalition forces could have easily protected them had they the will to do so. Evidently, the archaeologists and historians argued, the coalition forces were intent upon stripping the ancient civilisation of its history.
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