Historical ''English cemetery'', Surat, Gujarat is in ruins. Will ASI restore 372 year old monument?

British cemetery, Suratcommons.wikimedia.org/

Above image:  The English cemetery, Surat.  The British gave preference to native design in the construction of Mausoleums over the graves. They are big, ugly and discordant. To establish their superiority, they chose huge ornamental structures that appear to be repulsive.. This heritage site is poorly being maintained by the ASI......................   

Collapsed wall British cemetery, Surat. timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Above image: English Cemetery, Surat. Collapsed  southern wall. . The neem tree is supporting a portion of the leaning wall resting on its sturdy trunks.  The collapse of wall took place in the aftermath of cyclone Tauktae and heavy rainfall in June 2021............................... 

The East India Company first gained a space to build a trading post and factory  in Surat, Gujarat in 1612 during the reign of Mogul ruler   Jahangir. In 1613 they established a permanent factory there despite the fact the Portuguese had been in trade there for some time since 1512.  They built their  settlements in Madras and Kolkata in the later period to meet their ever expanding mercantile trading.

During the same period   other European powers  like the French, Portuguese and the Dutch were in the foray, trying hard to expand their trading activities. Through sheer skill and determination coupled with administrative capability, in the acute competition, the East India company(British joint stock company who got the Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth in 1600) came out on  top and hung on to India till 1947 not only as a trader later as a proxy ruler before  1857 In 1858  the British crown administration, London  took control of India; India being their major source of revenue for them.

British cemetery, Suratgujarattourism.com

The English cemetery is situated outside the city-wall  of Surat, Gujarat (which was known as 'Alampanah') near the Katargam gate. Here, lie several tombs containing the mortal remains of those English men associated with the EIC factory and  who played a vital role  in the political history of the city.   Surprisingly, the Europeans -  Dutch, Armenians, English and the Portuguese  `never gave up their competitive spirit even after death. They showed their ingenuity in the burial ground!!

Thus came up large mausoleums grand in style in the English cemetery highlighting the influence of Islamic and Hindu design styles  notwithstanding their subtle racial superiority over the natives. Instead of erecting  tomb stones with epithets  they chose big dome shaped Mausoleums over their mortal remains to prove their supremacy in their eternal sleep in an isolated area.  Many of them  are horribly big and ornamental, not in sync with those in Europe. In addition to these structures, there are numerous  simpler structures  and inscription slabs-over the graves of less important persons.  As for the Armenian (who had been mainly a flourishing business community since 17th century), they chose simple tombstones  with heavy  inscription. Unlike the British, they were never  after India's wealth and lands. The English, Dutch and Armenian cemeteries  in Surat are  protected monuments, as they are historical in nature. In 1912 there were about 19 tombs in the English cemetery during that time, many of which are still existing. 

British cemetery, Surat. timesofindia.indiatimes.com

The European cemeteries  are not well taken care of and are very much affected by  climatic changes particularly during heavy rains. Further, there seems to be no access road and they are not barricaded from trespassers and  graveyard raiders.  Visitors, I understand, need the help of locals to get there.

The recent media reports point out that the historical English Cemetery at Katargam Darwaja  have become a hangout for  tipplers and  others who want to get high on marijuana  during the day.  Meanwhile,  if a visitor passes by one of the mausoleums in front of the gate the smell of burnt marijuana emanating from the graveyard is so bad  any person going past the Mausoleum may get high on it without ever smoking the grass.

The departed souls that take lasting slumber here are the former governors of Bombay Presidency, former collector of Surat and many other higher-ups of the English company and their beloved family members. They find it difficult to get back their enchanted peaceful slumber on account of these intruders. 

Toward the end of July 2021  a  major portion of the southern wall  of the  372 year old English cemetery collapsed in the aftermath of    cyclone Tauktae and  heavy rainfall. Quite disappointing is even after a month, the remnants of the collapsed wall and the broken debris remained there uncleared.  With the wall gone, the anti-social people do not have to jump over it, they can have free access. The neem tree near  the wall  is a threat to the tombs nearby. The ASI said the wall fell short of the tomb and fortunately, it was not damaged.  

British cemetery, Surat. timesofindia.indiatimes.com

Though the ASI filed a case against the law breakers with the local police station, they  come out on bail after a couple of days  and are not afraid to come  back to the same spot to get drunk or get high. The ASI operating in Gujarat has a responsibility toward  saving the monuments. Instead of giving excuses, they should get into action. Let them clean wire  the graveyard and remove all the wild plant growth, etc., and then build a high  closely spaced barbed  steel fence around the monument. 

The departed  souls lying in the graveyard,  be they Europeans or any other nationality,  need a modicum of  respect. Giving respect to the departed people is part of  Indian culture and we should not compromise on it.