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Setting Up of Penal Colony at Chatham Harbour, 1858

South Andaman, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

March 22, 2023 to March 22, 2024

Chatham Harbour, situated in the South Andaman district, was the first site of the British settlement in the Andaman Islands.  As one of the earliest British colonies with an area of twelve acres, it came under the 1857 survey of the ‘Andaman Committee’ found under Dr. Frederic John Mouat for setting up the best site for penal settlement. This was followed by Captain H man’s raising of the Union Jack at Port Blair on 22nd January, 1858 for establishing and managing the penal system.

Consequently, the British Government initiated an Indian penal settlement at South Andamans during the spring of 1858 and they chose their old colonial harbour of Chatham at Port Blair as its site. After three months on the 16th of June, Superintendent James Pattison Walker recorded a tally of total 773 convicts of which 64 died in the hospital, 140 escaped but remained uncaptured. Many of those who escaped died of starvation. 1 of those convicted committed suicide and those hanged on charges of attempt to escape were 87 on count. 

The setting up of Penal colony at Chatham Harbour in 1858 was part of the colonial administration’s punitive measures of repressing the native population and asserting their domination.

Source: Indian Culture Portal