Andaman Nicobar, Islands,Port Blair, India

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Cellular Jail

Andaman Cellular Jail - Port Blair

Cellular Jail (Port Blair)

Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India, stands as a dark reminiscence of the British rule in the Indian subcontinent. This most dreaded and gruelling colonial prison situated in the remote archipelago was used by the British particularly to exile Indian political prisoners. Isolated from the mainland, this jail, also referred as Kala Pani (where Kala means death or time and Pani means water in Sanskrit) witnessed the most atrocious punishments imposed on prisoners. India’s struggle for independence saw imminent freedom fighters like Batukeshwar Dutt and Veer Savarkar being incarcerated in this jail. The jail is now open to public viewing as a National Memorial, and its museum gives one a glimpse of years of India’s struggle for freedom.

The prisoners dreaded the waters of Andamans and being isolated from the mainland there were no way out for them to escape. The island became an apt place for the British to punish the freedom fighters. The prisoners were chained and made to work in constructing buildings, prisons and harbour facilities in pursuit of colonising Andaman for the British. With the upsurge of Indian independence movement in the late 19th century, several prisoners were sent to Andaman that necessitated for a higher security prison. Sir Charles James Lyall, home secretary in the governance of the British Raj and A. S. Lethbridge, a surgeon in the British administration suggested introduction of a “penal stage” in the transportation sentence given to a prisoner so that the prisoner face harsh treatment for a certain period after deportation to the Andamans. This led to construction of the Cellular Jail, work of which commenced in 1896 and finished in 1906.

Over the years, the building was damaged and only three wings and the tower remains. In 1969 it was converted into a National Memorial. Tourists from India and around the world visit the island which is predominantly famous for the Cellular Jail apart from its scenic beauty. The National Memorial houses several galleries including Freedom Fighters Photo and Exhibition Gallery in the ground floor and an Art gallery and Netaji Gallery on the first floor among others.

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