When was it built: From 1896 to 1906
Who built it: British
Time taken: 10 years
Where is it located: Port Blair, the capital city of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India
Why was it built: As Solitary Confinement
Architectural Style: Cellular, Pronged
Visit Timing: 9.00 am to 12.30 pm, 1.30 pm to 4.45 pm
A must visit tourist attraction for the visitors in Andaman is Cellular Jail that is a popular colonial prison and Archipelago. The jail stands a silent witness to the ordeals and the solitary confinement suffered by the freedom fighters in the hands of the British. The confinement was done by the British to isolate the political prisoners and revolutionists. Steeped in history, the jail presents a unique opportunity for the tourists to get a feel of history and discover unknown facts of the freedom fighters who were captured here. The sound and light show at the jail during evening time is just ideal for the tourists to bring alive the saga of the heroic struggle.
Started in the year 1896, it took a mammoth ten years to get it completed. However, the British used it before during the year of 1857, immediately after the outcome of Sepoy Mutiny. The original building was a puce-coloured structure made from bricks that were brought from Burma. It comprises 696 cells with a dimension of 4.5 by 2.7 meters (14.8 ft × 8.9 ft) situated at the height of 3 meters (9.8 ft) including a ventilator.
Some of the activists and freedom fighters who were captured at the colonial prison were Diwan Singh Kalepani, Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, Yogendra Shukla, Batukeshwar Dutt, Maulana Ahmadullah, Movli Abdul Rahim Sadiqpuri, Maulvi Liaquat Ali, Babarao Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Bhai Parmanand, Shadan Chandra Chatterjee, Sohan Singh, Vaman Rao Joshi and Nand Gopal. The prisoners were tortured mercilessly by the British. They were not only secluded from the mainland but also strictly prohibited from making the overseas journey to the islands. If they violated the rule, they were threatened with loss of caste and societal status. Their life became miserable and was given responsibilities to construct prisons, buildings and port facilities. While doing such activities, many of them died while others were made to serve to colonise the island for the British.
During March 1868, many prisoners that were 238 in numbers precisely attempted to flee, but they were caught by April. One committed suicide whereas 87 prisoners were hanged as ordered by the Superintendent Walker. This was followed by a huge outbreak of chaos and hue and cry. There were protests by 33 prisoners for the inhuman treatment they received. Hunger strikes were prevalent in May 1933 which captured the attention of the Jail Authorities.
Three freedom fighters viz. Mahavir Singh, an associate of Bhagat Singh (Lahore conspiracy case), Mohan Kishore Ramadas (convicted in Arms Act Case) and Mohit Moitra (also convicted in Arms Act Case) died when they were made to eat forcefully. Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore then expressed their anger and intervened. The government then decided to repatriate the political prisoners from the Cellular Jail in the year 1937-38.
The year of 1942 become eventful in the history of Andaman when the Empire of Japan invaded the island and compelled the British to exit and since then the jail became home to the British prisoners.