Story of Indian Independence and Role of Andaman Islands

Ancient relics and monuments reminds one of the years of struggle and perseverance that made India an independent country. Andaman Islands is best known as Kalapani by fellow Indians. But interestingly few know that it once also suffered under the brutal rule of Japanese. The cellular jail epitomises the Indian glory with past and present.

The British Regime :

The History of the British in the Andaman and Nicobar islands began in 1788 when Lord Cornwallis, the then Governor General of India, thought of colonizing the islands and instructed Lt. Archibald Blair and Lt. R H. Colebrook of the Royal Navy to Survey the islands and submit a report on their suitability for a British Colony.

Viper Island - Near Port Blair

Viper Island

According to the recommendation of these two officers the first British settlement was founded in 1789 on Chatham Island.  The settlement was later abandoned in 1796. After the Great Revolt in 1857, the British Government thought of establishing a penal settlement here. In March 1858, the first penal settlement was established when Suptd. J.B. Walker arrived with 200 prisoners, mostly rebels from the Indian Army (Sepoy Mutiny 1857). Initially the convicts were kept in a jail at Viper island, which is about 15 minutes boat ride from Port Blair. The island had a jail, gallows, Kutcheri, Doctor's residence, etc.

Subsequently, this Jail was abandoned and the Cellular Jail at Port Blair was constructed. During the time of successive Superintendents, E. H. Man, General Steward, and Col. Cadell, the number of convicts increased and they were subjected to inhuman tortures at the hands of the British jailors. The foundation of the famous Cellular Jail was laid in 1896. The building was completed in 1906. The inhuman tortures were abandoned during the regime of Colonel Ferrar , many changes, both in policy and practice, took place during his time, which included concession to the convicts, mainland visit, etc.

The convicts came to 'kalapani' from various movements during freedom struggle. Some noteworthy movements were : National revolutionary movements like 'The Wahabi Movement' (1830 - 1869), 'Mopla Rebellion' (1792 - 1947), 'First Rampa Rebellion' (1878 - 1879), 'Second Rampa Rebellion' (1922 - 1924), 'Tharawadi Peasant Rebellion' , 'Burma Rebellion' (1930).
          Freedom fighters involved in famous cases and movements like Gadar Party Revolutionaries (1914), Assembly Bomb Case (1929), The Second Lahore Conspiracy Case, The Chittagong Revolt (1930) were also deported to Andaman.


The Japanese Regime : 1942 -1945

World War II brought another series of changes in the life of the Andaman Islands. During the War, the Japanese occupied Andamans on March 21, 1942 and kept the region under their effective control till October 7, 1945. Initially the Japanese behaved cordially towards the locals, but became harsh and suspicious after instances came to their notice of some locals maintaining contacts with the British.
As a result large number of innocent people (mostly highly educated) were killed. One such place where the massacre occurred is HumfreyGunj (Now - Humphrey Gunj Martyrs Memorial), where many men were half buried and shot to death. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose arrived in Port Blair on December 29, 1943 and was given a ceremonial welcome. He hoisted the National Flag at Port Blair on 30th Dec. 1943 for the first time during the British regime in India. The naval blockade by the Allied forces created an acute food crisis and the Japanese compelled the local people to bring more land under cultivation. They constructed roads, bunkers and buildings. On October 8, 1945, the Japanese surrendered to the South East Asia Command of British at Port Blair.

Since pre-historic times, these islands have been the home of aboriginal tribes. In the reported history the Andamanese Tribe whose population was once 10,000 is known to have fought against the oppression of the British. They were defeated in the Battle and their number was significantly wiped out, today their number is below 40.

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