Solitary Confinement and isolation from the world, led to the saddest and most brutal phase of our history of Independence struggle” Saza-e- Kalapaani “. Took a decade to complete in 1906, built by puce colored bricks, imported from Myanmar. There were no dormitories and a total of 693 cells.
The construction of cells prevented prisoners to communicate from each other. Even the cell spokes were designed such that the front spokes of the cell faced the back of the opposite cell. Communication between prisoners was curbed. Solitary confinement was such that the ‘Savarkar brothers’ didn’t know about each other for two years though they were in the same jail.
Cellular jail was inalienably linked to the long and glorious struggle of our revolutionary freedom movement fought on the mainland and it had deep political significance.
Building had seven wings… giving an impression of spokes of a bicycle wheel. The ventilator in every cell was located at a height of 3 meter; one cannot see the sky during his lifetime. In the silence of time, one can hear the sound of waves, passing wind and experience the struggle in the air.
Revolutionary patriots were forced to do Kohlu work in the oil-mill, long hours of work in the jungles involved hard labor, They worked in-spite of ill-health…many of them who lived were virtually reduced to skeletons, few committed suicide, many sent to asylum. We may not be able to sustain the brutality but the mould of the revolutionaries was different.
Every cell echoes cruelty stories of British rulers and hardships suffered by the prisoners in this isolated island. Every brick bore the testimony to the reality of horrors and begged question: does fighting for one’s human right, deserve such treatment?
Its been a long journey for the jail – from a torture machine to a national memorial, from a dreaded prison to a place of pilgrimage stand still as a mute witness to the torture faced by those courageous Indian men more than half a century ago.
A loincloth was given to each of the political prisoners for wearing while having a bath. It was so thin that it could hardly conceal any part of the body. They were in helpless condition the inmates hung their head in shame.
Each of these cells are stained with the blood of our freedom fighters, it still echoes the diabolic tyranny and the atrocities of the British.
Cells were dark and dingy with an entrance wide enough to let in one emaciated human figure at a time and a tiny vent up on the opposite wall. No toilets, each inmate was provided two bowls. One meant for food and the other one was to be used as a toilet.
The sloped awning covering it was so deep only a silver of light was visible at the bottom. There were no lamps provided in the cells and with these meager openings it was almost perpetually bathed in gloom. The cell outlets controlled the convict line of vision. For many cells, the convict could see nothing except the blank wall.
Very few have completed their full term and walked free from these corridors to the mainland, else people have left the hope of ever seeing their loved ones. Even if one gets through the term, he has awarded another term in some other jail or asked to settle down in one of island and work for Britishers for lifetime.
Gallows with noose made of manila ropes, prisoners were hanged till death. When the siren blared from the central watchtower it indicated that three martyrs had been hanged. At times, those who were placed on death row by the British government were executed in full view of all the other inmates of the jail.
A room underneath the gallows. This room has a small passage connects the sea, used to secretly flow the corpse into the sea. Even now during the high tide the water gets in to the room underneath the gallows.
Each prisoner was allowed only one pinch of salt per day. The terms which were used on daily basis were “Kanji” it means boiled rice churned in water, “Dabbu” kind of primitive spoon, made of a broken half coconut shell with a cane handle fixed to it.
Freedom does not come smoothly and the remaining of the cellular jail speak every bit of it of the barbarous treatment political prisoners underwent.