FORT KOCHI IN Kerala was occupied by three European powers: first by Portugal, then ny the Netherlands, and then by the British until 1947. It was whilst the British were in charge that a small jail was built on what is now Tower Road. Next to a police station and close to a string of roadside seafood restaurants, there is a gate that leads into the Jail of the Freedom Struggle. This prison was built by the British at a forgotten date during the 19th century. One clue to its age is that some of its roof tiles can be dated to 1865. The prison has a row of eight cells, each equipped with a 6 foot long concrete bed.
The prison, which might have been used as a transit establishment for prisoners waiting to be taken elsewhere, is said to have held leading freedom fighters such as Mohammed Rehman, Accamma Cherian, and K J Herschel, A K Gopalan, E M S Namboothiripad, and Abdurahiman Sahib. However, this is not known for certain. The prison, which had become disused and dilapidated, was restored in 2009, and opened as a museum.
In February 2023, we visited Fort Kochi to explore the 2022 Kochi Muziris Art Biennale. Unconnected with this major event, we visited an exhibition of artworks being displayed in the former prison. This included both paintings and sculptures. What made it an usual exhibition is that the exhibits are all contained within the cells behind strong iron doors with vertical bars. The doors that once prevented the prisoners from leaving the cells now prevent visitors from entering them.