Most of them were charged under Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code, waging of war against the crown.
At a function in Pune, on May 28, 1997, at the presentation of the first Veer Savarkar Award for ?Promotion of National Security Awareness and Strategic Thinking?, Army Chief General Shankar Roychow-dhury referred to his visit to the Cellular Jail and said that the list of people, who were banished to the Kala Pani and suffered for their patriotism is incomplete. Not all names have been traced and inscribed there. The General Roychowdhury pleaded for their recognition to all those, who undertook the armed struggle for India'sIndependence.
The red brick walls and the iron bars of the Cellular Jail are mute witness to man'sbrutality to man. Starting from Narayan, a convict of 1857 Mutiny from Danapur who was shot dead here by the British bullets, there are many unheard, unsung and unlisted heroes who perished in this soil to make the land fertile for the freedom.
Now the Cellular Jail has been dedicated to the nation as the national memorial. Today, out of seven wings, only three are remaining. Yet one can go inside the jail and feel the vibrations of the past pathos. Any hard-nut man will be forced to bow before this monument. On December 29, 1943, the Supreme Commander of the Indian National Army (INA), Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose arrived at Port Blair to take control of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. On landing, his first visit was to the Cellular Jail where he paid a silent respect to martyrs who died in the cause of freedom, right from 1857. On December 30, he hoisted ?free India?s? National Flag at Port Blair, the indicative reality that followed after four years on August 15, 1947! To this day, there are as many as 30 marble slabs on the jail wall with inscribed names of our freedom fighters, revolutionaries and martyrs from all over the country (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). Speaking on the occasion of Veer Savarkar'sdeath anniversary, on February 26, 1983, at the Cellular Jail, P.L. Deshpande, an eminent thinker and Marathi dramatist and humorist, said: To remind our people at the mainland every year, there should be a ?Day of Remembrance? right here, in the Cellular Jail, on national level to be attended by the highest authority of the country.
For the citizens of free India, this silent monument should be the first among the places, to be enshrined for paying homage to our patriots, revolutionaries and martyrs for the Independence that they have given us through their sufferings and in return demanded nothing. Then the place of sacrifice during the colonial days has now become a place of pilgrimage. What a pity, most of Indian political leaders have coined a off-repeated phrase for India, saying; ?Kashmir to Kanyakumari?? instead, they should adopt a better and more appropriate graphic phrase as ?Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Andaman to Lakshadweep?? This would certainly give a sense of belonging to our people of these islands. It may be a surprise to the mainlanders that during the ?Kargil misadventure? by Pakistan in June-July, 1999, people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands had contributed rupees forty-four lakh towards the Defence Fund. Not a small sum of contribution by the population of merely 280661!
(The writer can be contacted at Flat No. 39, Mrunali ?A? Wing, 5th Floor, Orion Complex, Aundh Road, Pune-411 002.)