India was under the rule of the British for more than 200 years. During this period the colonial masters unleashed various kinds of atrocities against the Indians to keep them ruled and subjugated. Even after independence there are various symbolic remains that remind the Indians of their dark past. One such painful reminder is the Cellular Jail, popularly known as the ‘Kala Pani’ located in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. This colonial prison was used by the British to confine the political prisoners and freedom fighters who used to oppose and revolt against the British rulers.
In 1857 the first war of independence took place when a bunch of sepoys started mutiny against the Brithshers opposing the coating of the cartridge with animal fat. But the British government brutally crushed down the mutiny. Thousands of them were sent to gallows, some were hung from the trees or blown away by the canons and the survivors were sent to the Cellular Jail for life imprisonment. Other prisoners from India and Burma were also sent to the prison to serve various sentences. The prisoners were made to work in harsh conditions. They were used as labourers in building prisons, buildings and harbour facilities. As the independence movement gathered more momentum the number of prisoners in this jail increased considerably. Some of the famous prisoners who have served sentence in this jail are Bhagat Singh, Sukh Dev, Rajguru, Batukeshwar Dutt, Bejoy Kumar Sinha, Shiv Verma, Jaidev Kapoor, Kamal Nath Tiwari among others.
The prison had 7 wings with a tower at the centre, something like a wheel. The tower had a guard in it that used to keep an eye on the prisoners. It also had a bell which served as an alarm during emergencies. Each wing was three storied. There were altogether 698 cells each measuring 2.5 metres * 2.7 metres and 3 metres tall, they were fitted with ventilators. The prison derives its name from these solitary cells that confined each prisoner cutting him from contact with the other prisoners. Today only three of the wings remain. 3 wings of the Jail were bought down after independence. The monument suffered a major damage after the 1941 earthquake and also from the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1954 and the 2004 Tsunami. Today the building has been converted into a national memorial monument.
This monument today stands as a testimony of all the sufferings that the Indians went through at the hands of the British to earn their independence. It reminds us of those dark old days of torture, pain and misery that the British mooted out on the Indians. Many prisoners lost their life while working in conditions that was humanly not possible, in this prison. They were treated worst than animals and made to do all kinds of hard work. Many times the inmates protested against the inhuman living conditions and atrocities unleashed on them.