Ottappalam (Palakkad) British Era Civil Court Complex has to be saved at any cost

It is quite irritating and disappointing that  when  a government  department  like Judiciary Court, District Collector's office   are housed in an old  building more than 100 plus years and if  shortage of space for officials and records  becomes a menacing problem, the officials arbitrarily take a decision to pull down the old building to be replaced  with the modern one in the same place. While in occupation the authorities don't care to do periodic repairs and let the structures rot.  The disparaging thing is they never give any consideration  to the heritage and aesthetics aspect of such old colonial structures. 

When  historical  structures are razed to  the ground for good along with them goes down their past history   and its connectivity with the present time. In the past more than a decade several such historic colonial structures, buildings, clock towers, bridges, bungalows have disappeared  across India  for reasons of  carelessness, lethargic attitude and scant respect for old monuments. In the western countries, when the govt is taking a specific decision on pulling down pretty old structures, etc., they never fail to  follow referendum. They take the opinion of the local people and respect their aspirations.   That the  Indian  officials who are tools in the hands of politicians take  decision on public issues without any consultation with the local community is a sad story and it does not augur well in a democratic  society. There is no room for biased opinion.

British-era court, Ottappalam, Palakkad,

Caught in the  web of controversy is the 160 year old Ottappalam Judiciary Court  complex of   Palakkad, Kerala.  The state government already made a decision to raze the court building and in its place  would come up  a big and spacious modern court complex. The construction cost R. 23.35  crore  was already allocated for the new project.   People from different walks of life  are against the arbitrary proposal of a new building in the old court campus by the ruling government. 

Ottapplam Court complex, Kerala.

The Palghat History Club (PHC) chipped in and  was against the demolition of the old court building. PHC  demanded that the historic civil court complex at Ottappalam  had to  be maintained as a monument so that the posterity could get some benefits out of it because the British era structure  is the legacy of early British rule in this part whose reign had begun  after the 1792 Srirangapatna  peace treaty  with Tipu sultan.   With the exception of  Wayanad, the entire Malabar province spread over present day Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram annd Palakkad became part of the English company and annexed with the Madras Presidency.    Demolishing this building means we are losing the archaeological, historical and political  importance. Further,  Ottappalam became an important part of this place upon the introduction of the railroad by the English company  and  construction of a court complex. The court complex in Cherpulassery was shifted to Ottappalam in 1904.

Ottappalam, Palakkad  Kerala,

Judiciary court, Ottappalam, Palakkad, Kerala

PHC general secretary Lijo Panangadan and president Boban Mattumantha are toiling to save the Court complex with support from the former director of Archaeology, historians and college principal. 

In the 1900s  freedom struggle  gained momentum across India against the Raj under the direct British Administration, London. Exploitation of Indian lands, racial discrimination and  repressive rule with a strong military and police force  continued unabated. The Jallianwala  Bagh massacre in Amritsar, Punjab  on13 April  1919  adduced a new dimension to freedom struggle.  Malayalees  did not lag behind in freedom struggle  and Kerala Pradesh Congress Party was in the forefront of freedom movement in Kerala, taking advice from National leaders.   Several freedom fighters courted arrest and were brought before the present court complex at Ottappalam. 

The popular judges like  Madhan Nair and Oyyarath Chandu Menon  presided over many cases and gave judgements on merit. This historic court  handles cases from as many as 66 villages registered at 11 police stations. In the colonial period it functioned as ‘Valluvanad district Munsiff court’.

The government  conserved   the Ram Mohan Palace near the High Court and the Manmohan Bungalow in Thiruvananthapuram and protected  the buildings of Kochi and Thalassery  that were built in  1930. So, considering the heritage and historical aspects of this British era court complex, the government must add the heritage tag to it and conserve it pretty soon. 

Recently a British era District Court building complex  with a fine turret clock tower in the heart of Tiruchirappalli (Thiruchi) city built in 1919  was scheduled for demolition and finally it was saved. Lawyers  of Thiruchi  wanted the Tamil Nadu govt. to declare it as a monument  under the Ancient Monument and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958.

The PHC  pointed out the new court complex could be built near the heritage building on the campus or  elsewhere.