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Cellular Jail (Andaman and Nicobar Islands)

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Cellular Jail is established on South Andaman Island, one of 572 islands forming Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India. Inhabited since 2000 years, the islands were occupied by Europeans in the central of 18th century. Few years later, British established naval base and a penal settlement on Chatham Island which was later shifted Viper Island.

The idea of establishing a permanent penal solution in these islands was germinated in the minds of the British Rulers in 1857 to curb India’s First War of Independence. A Committee of experts visited the islands for a survey in December 1857 and present a report to the Government in January 1858. The first batch of 200 convicts arrived on the island on 10th March 1858 under the overall charge of Dr. J. P. Walker.

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Other than discontinuity, the work quotas given to these prisoners were repeatedly impossible to complete within the time and the dire punishment followed for those who failed to feeding them. Often punishment was inhuman. Torture and flogging were repeatedly resorted to on iron trigonic frame, bar fetters, cross bar fetters and neck ring shackle, leg iron chains and matting bag uniforms, dirty diet were other deterrents for those who refused to submit to the brutal wardens. No cells in the Cellular Jail had toilet facilities. The punishment varied from handcuffs for a week and fetters for six months to lonely confinement. Remoteness and panic of the convenience gave it a name, ‘Kala Pani’ (Black waters).

The Japanese authorised the Andaman and Nicobar Islands during World War II from 1942 to 1945. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose visited Cellular Jail as Head of the Provisional Government of India on 29th December 1943. He called it, Indian durg.

The four out of original seven wings of the Jail had to be destroying after the damage during the temblor in 1941. After freedom in 1947, many of the erstwhile political prisoners visited the islands. Their Federation - "Ex-Andaman Political Prisoner's Fraternity Circle" put up a proposal to preserve remaining three wings. Then, Cellular Jail was declared a National monument by the then Prime Minister of India on 11th February 1979.

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