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Faraway jail to curb the freedom movement

South Andaman, Andaman & Nicobar Islands

March 12, 2021

Cellular Jail/Kala Pani
Cellular Jail/Kala Pani

Cellular Jail is situated on South Andaman Island, one of 572 islands forming Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in India.

The idea of establishing a permanent penal settlement in these islands was germinated in the minds of the British Rulers in 1857 to curb India’s First War of Independence.

Though the First War of Independence was quelled, the flame for achieving freedom could not be suppressed. Soon, freedom fighters taking part in various movements including Wahabi Movement, Manipuri Revolt, and a large number of Burmese from Tharawadda against British rule were also deported to the penal punishment in the Andaman. The prisoners were initially kept in the open enclosures.

Cellular Jail/Kala Pani

The construction of Cellular Jail building started in 1893 and was completed in 1905-06 using prisoners as construction labour.

The Jail is a massive three-storeyed structure with seven wings of unequal lengths, radiating from a central watch tower, shaped like spokes of a wheel. No communication of any kind was possible between prisoners in the same or different wings. The design of Cellular Jail is heavily influenced by ‘Panopticon’ theory where radiating wings allowed a single guard to keep watch on all the prisoners from the central tower but without the prisoner being able to see him. Prisoners deported to Cellular Jail for long term imprisonment for opposing British rule in India included eminent political convicts; revolutionaries.

Cellular Jail was declared a National Memorial by the then Prime Minister of India on 11 February 1979.Apart from guided tours, a sound-and-light show is also run in the evenings narrating and showcasing the trials and tribulations of the inmates.