Last updated: September 17, 2019

Answer: Andaman and Nicobar Island, India.

 Kala Pani jail or Blackwater jail is a cellular jail in Port Blair, the capital of Andaman and Nicobar Island, India before independence. And therefore this place was famous with the name of Kala Pani or Blackwater before the independence of India.

Foundation (1896-1906)

Britishers were using this jail to exile Indian political prisoners. This Jail itself constructed between 1896 to 1906 but had been using since the day of 1857 revolts for independence. This jail construction of the jail was such that prisoners could not communicate with each other. The building had seven wings each connected with a tower in the middle. That tower was used by the guards to keep eyes on the prisoners. There were a total of 693 cells, each was 4.5m X 2.5m with a ventilator at 3m height without any dormitory. The Kala Pani jail designed in such a manner that each cell’s prisoners can see only back of the adjacent wing cells. Even cells in a wing are in a row, so they cannot communicate or see others. A large bell was also used as a raising alarm.

Prisoners or Inmates

Most of the prisoners were Independence activists such as Fazl-E-Haq Khairabadi, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Yogendra Shukla, Batukeshwar Dutt, Sushil Kumar Dasgupta Etc. One can easily imagine the successful design of this jail for isolating the inmates in such a way that Savarkar brothers Babarao Savarkar and Vinayak Damodar Sawarkar did not know that they are in the same jail in different cells.

Endless time. Image Credit: Swapana Chowdhury

Hunger Strike

In 1933, the prisoners went on a hunger strike for 45 days. From the ninth day, guards tried to feed them milk forcefully. In an effort to resist this, Mohit Maitra, Mahavir Singh of Punjab and Manakrishna Nabadas of Bengal struggled to death. The others found that their pots of water had been stealthily replaced with the pot of milk. In the end, the British relented and accepted the prisoners’ demands that were as follows:

  1. Edible food.
  2. Soap to clean ourselves.
  3. Beds to sleep on.
  4. Let us study for we are political prisoners.
  5. Allow us to communicate with each other.

Gradually, an educational atmosphere grew within the premises of the jail. Prisoners studied political & social science and history.

In 1937, another nonviolent hunger strike ensued, this time for thirty-six days. Once again, the British had to accept their demands – the prisoners wanted to come back to their own soil to take part in the last years of the freedom struggle. Also, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindra Nath Tagore intervened and they were sent home between September 1937 and January 1938, and Andaman’s Cellular Jail was close up forever.

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