Cellular Jail aka Kala Pani

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The Cellular Jail, also known as Kālā Pānī (Black Water), was a colonial prison situated in the Andaman and Nicobar IslandsIndia. The prison was used by the British especially to exile political prisoners to the remote archipelago. Many notable dissidents such asBatukeshwar Dutt and Veer Savarkar, among others, were imprisoned here during the struggle for India's independence. Today, the complex serves as a national memorial monument

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Although the prison complex itself was constructed between 1896 and 1906, the British had been using the Andaman islands as a prison since the days in the immediate aftermath of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.


Shortly after the rebellion was suppressed, the British executed many rebels. Those who survived were exiled for life to the Andamans to prevent their re-offending. Two hundred rebels were transported to the islands under the custody of the jailer David Barry and Major James Pattison Walker, a military doctor who had been warden of the prison at Agra. Another 733 from Karachi arrived in April, 1868.[3] In 1863, the Rev. Henry Fisher Corbyn, of the Bengal Ecclesiastical Establishment, was also sent out there and he set up the 'Andamanese Home' there, which was also a repressive institution albeit disguised as a charitable one.[4] Rev. Corbyn was posted in 1866 as Vicar to St. Luke's Church, Abbottabad, and later died there and is buried at the Old Christian Cemetery, Abbottabad. More prisoners arrived from India and Burma as the settlement grew.[5] Anyone who belonged to the Mughal royal family, or who had sent a petition to Bahadur Shah Zafar during the Rebellion was liable to be deported to the islands.[citation needed]




Port Blair - Viper New Jails under construction
The remote islands were considered to be a suitable place to punish the freedom fighters. Not only were they isolated from the mainland, the overseas journey (Kala Pani) to the islands also threatened them with loss of caste, resulting in social exclusion.[6] The convicts could also be used in chain gangs to construct prisons, buildings and harbour facilities. Many died in this enterprise. They served to colonise the island for the British.[citation needed]



By the late 19th century the independence movement had picked up momentum. As a result, the number of prisoners being sent to the Andamans grew and the need for a high-security prison was felt. From August 1889 Charles James Lyall served as home secretary in the Raj government, and was also tasked with an investigation of the penal settlement at Port Blair.[7][8] He and A. S. Lethbridge, a surgeon in the British administration, concluded that the punishment of transportation to the Andaman Islands was failing to achieve the purpose intended and that indeed criminals preferred to go there rather than be incarcerated in Indian jails. Lyall and Lethbridge recommended that a "penal stage" should exist in the transportation sentence, whereby transported prisoners were subjected to a period of harsh treatment upon arrival. The outcome was the construction of the Cellular Jail, which has been described as "a place of exclusion and isolation within a more broadly constituted remote penal space."[9]


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