Friday, December 20, 2013

Jewish cemetery in Mala set to be destroyed

By Shevlin Sebastian

The members of the Mala Paithruka Samrakshana Samithy (MPSS) held a protest march yesterday against the efforts of the Mala Panchayat to build a sports academy on two-and-a-half acres belonging to a Jewish cemetery, which has a total area of 4 acres. “We are against the destruction of the cemetery, which is one thousand years old and part of our cultural heritage,” says Prof. C. Karmachandran, the president of MPSS. The money for the Rs 2 crore K. Karunakaran Sports Academy has been given by the sports and youth affairs department of the state government.

Karmachandran points out that the construction is illegal. On January 4, 1955, the members of the Jewish community gave the custodianship of the cemetery to the Mala panchayat. A clause in the title deed says, 'There will be no trespass or molestation of the tombs. Nor shall any portion of the cemetery be dug or unearthed. The compound wall bounding the cemetery on all sides and the gate in it shall be preserved. “The panchayat is supposed to maintain the cemetery, without doing any construction, but they have not done so,” says Karmachandran. In 2005, a stadium was built at one side. 

Documentary film-maker KB Bobinson, who has filmed in the cemetery, says, “I think there are four tombs left. The rest [30] have been destroyed.”

Dan Elias and Aby Abraham, two descendants of Mala Jews, who are settled in Kochi, along with the MPSS, have filed a suit against the construction at the sub-court at Irinjalakuda. The case is going on. “Work on the academy began in March,” says Karmachandran.

Indira Sivaramam, the president of the Mala Panchayat, says, “I don't know what the fuss is all about. The academy is being made besides the stadium and it will be constructed by the National Games Agency. The cemetery will remain untouched.”

Says Karmachandran, “The stadium itself is a violation of the agreement with the Jews. So, to say that by renovating and expanding it, there is nothing wrong is a fallacy.”

TN Prathapan, the local MLA says that these are political protests. Karmachandran says that there is nothing political in this. “In fact, it is a cultural protest,” he says. We are a group of scholars and academicians.”

The march was inaugurated by film director and social activist Priyanandan. “We beg the public to step forward to save one of the oldest Jewish monuments in India,” says Karmachandran. 

(The New Indian Express, Kerala) 

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