Remembering the freedom fighters of Cellular Jail in Andaman Islands
Cellular Jail Andaman Islands
I was a teenager when I visited Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman Islands for the first time. Watching the sound and light show , I felt a lump in my throat. The peepal tree , the narrator has been the sole witness to the tragedies that has unfolded here.
Words fail me as I walk around here after two decades, listening to the stories of the torture and the agony experienced by these men just to get us freedom. The colonial prison in Port Blair was built around the 19th century and even soldiers who had revolted around the 1857 mutiny were imprisoned here by the British.
It is such an irony that the archipelago of Andamans with its turquoise waters was referred to as Kala Pani, the ultimate destination for political prisoners as they waited for death. Starved, humiliated, tortured, isolated and executed- their lives ended in the dungeons here. The beautiful sunlight and the bright blue skies were a stark contrast to the darkness experienced by these men.
The prisoners were kept in isolation. The Savarkar brothers did not know that they were in the same jail for two years. It was called the cellular jail as every freedom fighter was imprisoned in a cell and not allowed to speak to each other. They were almost 700 cells in the entire prison.
Almost every freedom fighter was executed by the British after being tortured mercilessly. At one time, about 200 or more escaped only to be caught and 87 of them were hung. As you walk from one room to another in the national monument, tears well up in your eyes as you read the stories. The gallows lie in a corner, dark and desolate.
During the second world war when the Japanese reigned briefly, Andamans and Cellular Jail came under their control while the British became prisoners. It is believed that Subash Chandra Bose was here as well. However the tables were turned and the Allies eventually regained control .
We walk from one cell to another as soundless cries echo from these walls. We eventually head to the roof where we can see the beautiful landscape of emerald tinged islands enclosing the blue green waters . The gentle breeze, the floating clouds – everything looks so idyllic. And I wondered that these men would have never felt the beauty of the landscape as death stared in their face every day. And I also realized how much we take our freedom for granted.
My humble and grateful tribute to these men who fought for it !
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