Kaalapani (derived from Sanskrit words ‘Kal’ which means Time or Death and ‘Pani’ which means Water), was a colonial prison in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. The prison was used by the British especially to exile political prisoners to the remote archipelago. This was the Cellular Jail about which i had spoken in my previous blog.
Why was it called Kaalapani? – Apart from the tortures the prisoners went through in the Cellular Jail there were many other factors that added to the name of Kaalapani. There was no escape from these islands back then. Even if one managed to escape from the Jail, it was difficult to survive the harsh climate of the islands. Most of the prisoners who tried escaping , died due to diseases like Malaria and ones who survived the nature were killed by the native Tribes of the island. There was no way one could swim and reach anywhere but be deadlocked in these chain of islands.
I would like to share the STORY OF PRISON LIFE from the autobiographies of some of the famous freedom fighters who spent their youth in getting India its freedom.
Extract from the autobiography of Barindra Kumar Ghosh
“The next morning we came out and washed our faces and then had for the first time the darshan of GANJI, otherwise called KANJI. It means boiled rice churned in water – one may say a sort of rice-porridge. We were given each a dabbu full of this dainty…………“The daily ration per meal is as follows—Rice 6 oz, flour for roti 5 oz, dal 2 oz, salt 1 dram, oil ¾ dram and vegetable 8 oz…………….“Each of us was given an iron plate and an iron dish, red with rust and smeared with oil. These could not be cleansed at all. “A half pant, a Kurta and a white cap were provided for each prisoner. But he was not provided with any change for taking bath except a langoti which hardly covered the nudity.“……….The langoti we were given to put on while bathing could not in the least defend any modesty. Thus when we had to change our clothes we were in as helpless a condition as Draupadi in the assembly of the Kauravas. There was no help. We hung our heads low and somehow finished the bathing affair. Then I understood that here there was no such thing as gentleman, not even perhaps such a thing as man. Here were only convicts,”
“After finishing the ‘breakfast’ with the ganji or kanji every prisoner had to commence the work allotted to him which kept him engaged practically the whole of the day with a short break at midday for lunch. The principal work which was also the hardest was connected with coconut.
“To pound the coir and extract fibers out of it, to prepare again ropes out of those fibers to grind dry coconut and also mustard in the machine and bring out oil, to make bulbs for hooks from the shells-these formed the principal items of work for the prisoners,………
“The most difficult work was coir-pounding and oil-grinding………… Each one was given the dry husk of twenty coconuts. The husk had first to be placed on a piece of wood and then to be beaten with a wooden hammer till it became soft. Then the outer skin had to be removed. Then it was dipped in water and moistened and then again one had to pound it. By sheer pounding the entire husk inside dropped off, only the fibers remaining. These fibers had then to be dried in the sun and cleaned. Each one was expected to prepare daily a roll of such fibers weighing one seer”
Based on autobiographies of Savarkar & Ullaskar Dutt
Oil- grinding was the most difficult work allotted to prisoners in the Cellular Jail. This was the hardest work and caused the death of some, insanity of one and a general strike of the prisoners. It furnishes the most pathetic evidence of callousness bordering on inhumanity on the part of the authorities.
Savarkar, describes it ………. “We were to be yoked like animals to the handle that turned the wheel .Hardly out of bed, we were ordered to wear a strip of cloth, were shut up in our cell and made to turn the wheel of the oil mill. ……….. . The door was opened only when meal was announced. The man came in and served the meal in the pan and went away and the door was shut. If after washing his hands one were to wipe away the perspiration of his body,the jamadar who was the worst of gangsters in the whole lot would go at him with loud abuse. There was no water for washing hands. Drinking water was to be had only by propitiating the jamadar, while you were at kolu; you felt very thirsty. The waterman gave no water except for a consideration which was to palm off to him some tobacco in exchange. If one spoke to jamadar his retort was,” A prisoner is given only two cups of water and you have already consumed three. Whence can I bring you more water? From your father?” we have put down the retort of the jamadar in the most decent language possible. If water could not be had for wash and drink what can be said of water for bathing?
While describing the prison life Ullaskar Dutt narrates-“In our village only oxen are harnessed to the oil presses and even they can not extract more than 16 pounds of mustard –oil in one day. Here, in the Cellular Jail, I was harnessed to the oil mill with two other prisoners and were required to produce eighty pounds of coconut oil by evening. The Jamadars would make us gallop and if our pace slackened, we were beaten mercilessly. We would stumble and fall, and be beaten senseless everyday.”
Such were the hardships that the freedom fighters faced every single minute of their lives spend in the Kaalapani. If you ever get a chance to visit the islands, if not the beaches make sure you visit the Cellular Jail. Feel the unbelievable sacrifices thousands of young men made, in the prime of their lives, for the cause of India’s Independence.
P.S : missed the post for yesterday J ,gonna publish it tomorrow (facepalm 🙁 ) and am sure you would love it when published. It’s going to be about the famous Tribes of the islands – JARAWAS
Happy Blogging!!! Live.Love.Laugh <3 <3 <3