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Bamyan cave-dwellers need wood to survive winter

Bamyan cave-dwellers need wood to survive winter

Dec 01, 2019 - 19:07

BAMYAN CITY (Pajhwok): On the brink of harsh winter season, tens of cave-dweller families besides famous Buddha statue in central Bamyan province demand woods and fuel to heat up their caves.

Around 3,000 caves are dotted around the famous Buddha statues, inhabited by 250 families from Bamyan and other provinces. Caught up in grinding poverty, the people living here do not have other shelters.

Some of the caves at the base of the statues were used by the Talibaninfo-icon for storing weapons. Later on, destitute civilians used the rock structures as their abodes. For nearly three centuries, the Buddhists lived in the caves.

Looking at the excruciating living conditions, one could not escape the feeling that the hapless individuals are stuck in a time warp, isolated from the modern-day world. To them, hand-to-mouth living is more than a luxury.

Braving subzero winter temperatures and other day-to-day privations, the cave residents do not have blankets -- much less other home appliances. Starvation, illiteracy and backwardness appear to be their destiny.

Karima, one of the cave dewllers, said she has been living in the cave for the past seven years with six children. The cave is situated in the Sang Chaspan area west to the Buddha statue.

She told Pajhwok Afghan News her husband died due to illness and he was the only bread winner for the family. After the death of her husband, she had to take care of her children and bring them up.

“I work in the farm lands and sometimes go to homes and wash their clothes and other house work in order to earn food for my children,” she said.

Inside the cave, Karima sitting on an old floor said today is first of December and there is no wood to heat up the cave.

She said in the past, government and welfare organizations would provide them wood and other fuel materials ahead of winter for warm the caves.

Ghulam Ali, 65, lives in the cave from the past 16 years with his family coupled with difficulties and hardships.

Ali who is unable to earn more than 100 afghanis a day said: “With 100 afghanis we could only afford to buy food and survive.”

Mohammad Alim, a father of two sons and a daughter, has built a wood-and-metal door to his subterranean residence. There is an old carpet and some blackened utensils inside his home of sorts.”

“I pin no hopes on assistance from a government that itself is reliant on international assistance,” he says stoically. If the government really wants to help us, it should build houses and provide jobs for cave people.

Governor Spokesperson Abdul Rahman Ahmadi said the government in coordination with some welfare organizations planned to assist the cave dwellers, adding that one week earlier a joint committee of government and welfare organizations was formed to provide assistance to cave dwellers.

He pledged that woods, blankets and cash assistance would be soon provided to the cave-dwellers.

Many Bamyan statues are carved into the sides of cliffs facing the provincial capital -- home to the worldinfo-icon's oldest oil paintings. The city, with a population of 39,915, is known for its cave dwellings.

A hub of trade for much of the second millennium CE, it once served as the meeting ground between the East and West. Its remarkable archaeology is a blend of Greek, Turkish, Persian, Chinese and Indian influence.

The city was part of the Buddhist Kushan Empire in the early centuries of the Christian era. The area was conquered by the Ghaznavids in the 11th century. In 1221 the city and its population were completely wiped out by Genghis Khan.

Famous all over the world, the Buddha statues were blown up in March 2001 by the Taliban, who called them un-Islamic. At one point in time, 2,000 monks meditated in caves among the sandstone cliffs -- a huge tourist attraction.

nh/ma

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