Vandalised Maldives museum to seek India`s help

The Maldives national museum was vandalised by religious extremists during last week`s unrest.

Male: The Maldives national museum that was vandalised by religious extremists during last week`s unrest will seek India`s help in restoring the smashed Hindu and Buddhist artefacts belonging to the country`s pre-Islamic era.

The museum reopened yesterday, a week after being vandalised by a mob that destroyed the exhibits.

"We would like to get assistance. But the current situation is that we have not been able to contact, but we will," museum director Ali Waheed said when asked if he had approached the Indian government for help.

Recalling the tragic events of February 07 when religious extremists stormed the Museum, built by the Chinese, Ali said the vandals were armed with rocks.

"They first threw rocks at the glass and then smashed the artefacts against each other. They also pushed down the glass cases in which the items of the pre-Islamic era were kept," Ali said.

He said there were about 32-35 exhibits and almost 90 percent of them were smashed to little pieces.

After been swept off the floor, the exhibits are now locked in a room and efforts to restore them would be made. "It is difficult to restore as most of them have been broken to tiny pieces," Assistant Curator at the Museum Ismail Ashraf said.

Asked if the Museum had ever received any threats earlier with regard to the pre-Islamic exhibits, Ali said he had "heard" that few people were talking about it.

"We had heard that some people were questioning why we are keeping non-Muslim exhibits in the Museum. There was never any direct threat. We did not expect it," Ali said. The museum was vandalised on February 07, the day when then president Mohamad Nasheed resigned from his post.

The vandalism, reminiscent of the infamous Taliban`s demolition of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001, had led to fears that religious hardliners were gaining ground in this picturesque country.

Asked if the country has lost the pre-Islamic history, Ali said, "I would not say that. There are still places in the country where excavation can be done that will lead to more such exhibits".

Incidentally, last year during the SAARC Summit, a mob had vandalised a monument built by Pakistan saying its design was anti-Islam.