KOZHIKODE: Literally, a battle over two British cannons is raging between Payyoli (part of erstwhile Zamorin Kingdom) and Thalassery (which had been under then Kolathunadu). Thalassery wants the antique property restored to it but Payyoli refuses to play ball saying it has a museum and historical pieces are meant to be preserved there.
Rewind to 2010 when six cannons with British insignia were discovered at the Thalassery beach. Since Kannur district has no archaeology office, the archaeology department decided to move two of the cannons to the Kunjali Marakkar Museum at Kottakkal near Payyoli in Kozhikode. The remaining cannons are in the custody of the Harbour department.
Though the cannons were first put on display at the museum two years ago, it continues to draw a sizeable number of visitors. A few months ago, the department decided to take it back to Thalassery following a request from A N Shamseer, Thalassery, MLA, to showcase it as part of the Thalassery Tourism Heritage Project. But the people of Kottakkal have refused to give in since they are convinced the museum offers the perfect setting for displaying the cannons.
Though Kannur District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) officials thrice came over to take back the cannons -- they had even sought police help -- stiff opposition from people meant they returned empty-handed.
Now, matters have come to such a pass that the residents have formed an action council and erected a tent near the museum to ‘save’ their cannons.
“For the past two years, they have been kept here. But now, the authorities want to hand over the cannons to the tourism department. What has an archaeological piece got to do with tourism? If it is to be handed over to the archaeological department in Kannur, it could have well been justified,” says P Assainar, ward member, whose division falls under Payyoli municipality.
‘Got the order’
Kannur DTPC secretary Jitheesh Jose says they are playing a watch and wait strategy, apparently a
‘cooling off’ period, on the orders of Payyoli police. “We have the archaeology director’s order for moving the same to Thalassery,” he says. The plan is to put up the cannons temporarily at the Overburry’s Folly Park in Thalassery town.
Sources said the issue has a political angle to it. Though the cannons were entrusted with the museum during the incumbent LDF government’s rule, the decision was taken by the previous UDF government. And the action committee mainly consists of UDF members. Recently, when the issue was raised by Kuttiyadi MLA Parakkal Abdulla in the assembly, Archaeology Minister Kadannappally Ramachandran reiterated that the cannons should be returned to Thalassery.