The Dutch Cemetery (17th CE) of Bheemili, Vizag, AP is vanishing due to official apathy

Reels of red tape, official inaction, loss of interest in heritage sites, encroachments etc are some of the reasons why countless Indian monuments are disappearing which otherwise could have been saved for the posterity to understand our past history.. Only in the last decade some states have taken action  with interferences from heritage enthusiasts and  conservation group INTACH. The 17th century Dutch cemetery has a long way to get back to past glory. As of today, no action is forthcoming  to get the site restored. 

7th Dutch cemetery,Bheemili, Vizag,the

7th Dutch cemetery,Bheemili, Vizag,

A winding road through one of the narrow lanes of Bheemunipatnam leads to a The 17th-Century Dutch cemetery at Kummaripalem of old Vizag  is hidden in the lanes and by lanes and is not accessible that easily.   A winding road through one of the narrow lanes of Bheemunipatnam leads to  the site that has no sign. Apart many of the tombstones are overgrown with weeds and termite hills. That broken liquor bottles, etc strewn around the poorly maintained secluded colonial burial site  is a sore site and it suggests that place is a frequent hang out for tipples, hobos and unwanted anti-social people. These suggest  how the heritage department is careless and how badly they treat a historical burial place of by-gone  era. 

17th Dutch cemetery,Bheemili, Vizag

Above image: 17th century Dutch cemetery and old light house in Bheemunipatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India. photo courtesy: Because of inaction the old Dutch cemetery is vanishing soon unless serious steps are taken in the near future. Redtapism in the corridors of power has pushed this listed heritage site into crumbling............

17th Dutch cemetery,Bheemili, Vizag, AP

 There lie  memorials of those Europeans who died during the French War including those of  the chief of Settlement Charles Simpson, Alexander of Paris and others. The oldest grave here is that of Frederick Kesslerus, and according to the tombstone details, he was buried here in 1661. One story that fascinates tourists the most is that of pirates; hence it is referred to as the "skulls and bones tombs." The Dutch Cemetery also has the tombs of both the Dutch and the British. There are around 50 tombs in the graveyard and some with skulls and bones motif. The tombs are made of marble, cut granite and also brick-lime mortar. 

This entire heritage site is damaged and remains uncared for primarily because of clubbing together of the ASI and the Tourism department and their unified approach to conservation is not in the right direction. Reason: Their approach is divergent not matching with the other.  The ASI has the expertise and technique in the matter of conservation of heritage sites. 

In the case of Bheemili Dutch heritage site, it is a historical one and ought to be preserved and converted into a tourist spot. It represents the transfer of power from one colonial power to another - the Dutch to the English who took full control over the trading post on the East coast of India. The added advantage is Vizag happened to be a natural harbor which could handle big ships easily.  In 2001 Dutch government was keen to develop the Dutch cemetery along with  the Tourism department. But the latter took no interest and the cemetery is left to rot.  Already the the cemetery was severely damaged by Cyclone Hudhud years ago. Not even yearly period maintenance is done to curtail further damages.

In case the government takes up the conservation  and beautification work in the near future, it should be handled by people who have expertise in this field. To salvage the cemetery, the work should not be given to the Tourism department for the simple reason the gazette notified heritage sites are damaged by the tourism department in the name of conservation. It means loss of heritage value