OVERVIEW OF KALA PANI:
SAZA – E- KALA PANI
Kala Pani is considered as one of the darkest chapters of the colonial rule in India. Kala Pani, situated in Andaman and Nicobar Islands was constructed right after the very first fight for independence. The jail was named as Kala Pani because the jail was surrounded by the sea and hence no prisoner could hope to escape.
It actually took ten years to construct this mini hell, the construction started in 1896 and ended in 1906 and with that, the revolt for independence geared up. Therefore, the British Government used these islands as a ground for prisoners who revolted against them.
HISTORICAL LINKS OF KALA PANI:
Moving upon to the historical pages of Kala Pani, there are some darkest notes which are actually very important to be noted. After the very first war for freedom in 1857, the rebellions were sent to the island. Around, 238 prisoners tried to escape from the island but got caught. As a punishment 87 prisoners were hung on trees and few were tied with the cannons and blown away. Jailer David Barry moderated the cellular jail and killed almost 10% of the prisoners.
In 1868, around 750 prisoners arrived to Kala Pani from Karachi and soon the island was officially named as the Death Trap. Sir Charles James Lyall, the home secretary and A. S. Lethbridge, a surgeon in the British administration suggested developing a “penal stage” to give even harsh punishments to the prisoners. In conclusion, it led to the construction of the Cellular Jail.
The architectural concept was taken from Jeremy Bentham’s idea of Panopticon theory. If we look upon the design of the cellular jail, it looks more like a ‘Spokes of a wheel’. The Jail was designed in such a way that in the center, it had a watchtower and seven unequal wings were coming out of it. Each wing had three stories. In addition, Prisoners who were sentenced to death were placed on the first floor and prisoners who were sentenced for life imprisonment were placed on the second floor and were tortured.
The building material was brought from Myanmar, then named Burma. Approximately, 20,000 cubic feet of local stone and 30,000 puce colour bricks were used to set this whole historic memorial. Over 693 cellular jails were planned.
In addition, each cell was 4.5 M X 2.7 M in dimensions. No toilet facility was provided in any of the cells. Just imagine the condition of the prisoners inside. With zero ventilation, zero communication and zero facility, how they just survived.
Out of the seven wings, four got demolished in the earthquake of 1941 and three were conserved as a National Memorial Monument.
CRUELTY BEHIND THE WALLS OF KALA PANI:
The prisoners in the Kala Pani jail were treated worse than animals. They led a miserable life bearing the cruelties of the British and staying away from their family and loved ones. They went through various inhuman tortures and were almost left half dead by the British. Moreover, The prisoners were kept barred with iron rods that ran from the elbow to the knees. They were untied only when they were sent out for work. In addition, prisoners were provided with two bowls, one for the food and the other one to the toilet.
In other words, physical torture and flogging was a part of their daily stuff. Prisoners were actually given worm-infested rainwater to drink and boiled wild grass to eat, many prisoners died after such ill-treatment. No light, no ventilation, no proper food and guess what no hope. People who revolted, their friends have no clue where did they just disappear. Above all, the guards on duty always humiliated the prisoners and tortured them to their best.
Kartick Sarkar, Adhir Nag and Bimal Bhowmick are among those eight ex-prisoners of Port Blair jail who are still alive. They all have reached at that stage of life where they recall their memories and cry over it. Mr Bimal Bhowmick spent his three crucial years of his life in Kala Pani. Even today he recalls his cell where he was ill-treated.
In 1941 during World War II, the Japanese army seized the island and jailed the wardens of the cells. Subhas Chandra Bose the founder of Azad Hind Fauj declared Andaman islands as the very first independent part of India in 1945. In addition, Fighters like Veer Savarkar were imprisoned. He was arrested in 1909 on charges of plotting an armed revolt against the Morle-Minto reform. Though he tried to escape by diving in the water but was arrested. He was sentenced to two life sentences i.e. 50 years and was tortured in Kala Pani.
Who expected this mini hell, Kala Pani will get converted to a tourist spot one day. Above all, we can feel that patriotism, the zeal of freedom which our fighters had, in the air of Kala Pani. Today, the jail is just a museum which holds all the proves of inhumane nature and the brutality which our heroes faced.
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SOURCE: Cultural India