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Kalapani jail is 100 years old
Onkar Singh in New Delhi | March 10, 2006
Over 150 Indians who served various sentences in Kalapani jail during the British regime for defying the orders of the administration or rebelling against the system were invited to take part in the celebrations of the 100 years of the establishment of the Cellular Jail on March 10, 2006.
Situated in Andaman, Kalapani punishment was meant to serve as a deterrent to Indian freedom fighters fighting against the British.
rediff Features Desk adds:
It was the British-run Bengal government, and Governor General of India Lord Cornwallis, who conceived the idea of developing the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, as a British colony in the 1700s.
Two officers – one of them was Lieutenant Archibald Blair (that's how Port Blair got its name) -- were sent to survey the area. A settlement was established on Chatham Island in a southeastern bay of the Great Andaman and was called Port Cornwallis (later its name was changed to Port Blair). There was much illness on the islands and the colony did not work out so the settlers were shipped back to the mainland.
The British government had too many prisoners on its hand, post the Mutiny of 1857 and the idea of establishing a settlement – this time a convict colony -- was revived. Some 200 prisoners were sent out initially to a jail, equipped with gallows, at Viper Island 15 minutes from Port Blair, and Kalapani was established.
The construction of Cellular Jail -- which got its name from the fact that it was made up of numerous individual cells it provided for prisoners destined for solitary confinement -- began in 1896 and was completed in 1906. The British authorities arrested hundreds of revolutionaries as more and more rebellions against the British surfaced across India. And hundreds of these prisoners were shipped out to Port Blair and were housed and ill-treated in this jail.
Veer Savarkar, many associates of Sardar Bhagat Singh, several revolutionaries of the Chittagong Revolt were some of the freedom-fighters who spent time at Cellular Jail.
The Andaman and Nicobar tourism authorities are commemorating the history of this jail with special ceremonies today.
Three surviving freedom-fighters -- Bimal Bhowmick, Kartik Sarkar and Adhir Nag -- were invited to Port Blair, as well as spouses, sons and daughters of deceased freedom fighters. There will be special functions to honour the heroes of 1857. Shubha Mudgal and Suresh Wadkar will participate in a special music programme Friday evening.