Heritage lovers and historians have urged the government to take steps to save the two-century-old Salem Old Anglican Cemetery, located in front of the new Integrated Collectoarte Complex, here.
They claim that the cemetery of CSI Christ Church, where many Collectors, Army officers and their family members, all belonging to the British era were buried, has been left to ruin. Encroachments have eaten up a significant portion of it. A case of showing disrespect to the deceased. Many of the beautiful stone carvings, slabs and ornamental iron railings that have guarded the tombs have been vandalised with impunity. Bushes have grown and many fear that the 218–year-old cemetery is fast disappearing. Slabs and tablets erected in memory of those who died are missing.
J. Barnabas, general secretary, Salem Historical Society, says some of the people who have taken shelter in the cemetery are intimidating those who come there – either to studey it or pay respects to the departed.. The tombs of seven British Collectors of Madras Civil Service are located here, which include that of Edward Robert Hargrave (1774-1830), who died on February 28, 1830 at the age of 56.
He continued to stay in Salem and hence people of Salem honoured him with a monument. It is designed in such a way that legs of lions carry the polished slab of the tomb. In seven years three collectors of Salem died young while serving the Queen unable to withstand its hot and humid climate and lack of medical facility. Mr. Barnabas says many dreaded to serve in Salem during those days.
The Commercial Resident of East India Company, Charles Carpenter, is buried here. A Tamil Deputy Collector, who had brought in revolution in registration, Timothy Cornelius Pillay, who died in 1866, is laid here along with his British colleagues. The earliest serving judge of the 200-year Salem Court is also buried here.
As the cemetery is situated in the heart of the city, land sharks have an eye on it. So the Salem Historical Society want the administration to immediately declare it as a heritage site.