Historian appeals to Antony

Fort St. Angelo here conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), is under threat of encroachment by the Defence establishment here, according to historian K.S. Mathew.

Dr. Mathew, Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities (IRISH) which is affiliated to the Kannur University and the Indira Gandhi National Open University, said in a memorandum to Defence Minister A.K. Antony that the fort, which is an Indo-Portuguese heritage, be conserved as a protected monument as it was reportedly being encroached by the Defence establishment here. He also said that the ASI officials entrusted to conserve the fort were being threatened with dire consequences by the Defence personnel for approaching the Munisiff Court here to get the monument protected and for the maintenance of status quo. He said the court hearing was posted for March 13.

Dr. Mathew, who had studied at the Jawaharlal Nehru University and in Lisbon for his doctorate in Indo-Portuguese history and worked as Professor and head of the Department of History at the Central Universities of Hyderabad and Pondicherry, said in the memorandum that with the assistance of the academics from Portugal and India, an area fully covered by wild growth of bushes and trees which once formed part of the fort established by the Portuguese in 1505 was traced in 2005.

This portion, which was outside the existing water moat, was discovered, excavated and studied by the ASI, he said adding that there was a dry moat separating it at the moment from the land occupied by the Defence establishment. Even outside the dry moat and within the area currently occupied by the military, there were remnants of ancient Portuguese monuments which should also be maintained, he said.

Alleged demolition

Dr. Mathew said that there was a well outside the fortress in the area belonging to the ASI with eight angles. There was a document of 1937 that the military had approved the well as a part of the Portuguese fortress. This document was reported to be with the ASI, he said in the memorandum. He also said that despite the protest from the ASI authorities, the military personnel reportedly had opened a gate from the Cantonment side to the well and demolished certain structures and occupied the well unauthorisedly. The ASI officials were also being prevented from taking photographs of the alleged demolition activities at the site, he said.

Dr. Mathew appealed to Mr. Antony to order maintenance of the status quo ante at the site before the entire portion was demolished and conduct an inquiry. He also sent a copy of the memorandum to Charles Dias, MP, who had done his doctorate in Indo-Portuguese history.

Dr. Mathew founded IRISH attached to the Nirmalagiri College, Koothuparamba. IRISH had organised an international seminar on Fort St. Angelo in 2005 commemorating the 500th anniversary of the fort.

  • ‘Heritage structure encroached by Defence'
  • ‘ASI officials threatened by Defence personnel'