Thursday, 24 December 2015

Ross Island Penal colony - con Island of British India 01


The Ross Island Prison Headquarters, 1872.en.wikipedia.org

Ross Island Penal Colony, Andaman, India   was an exclusive prison inland  in the Bay of Bengal for the Indian rebels who revolted against the oppressive British East India company's violent rule. it was something like Alcatraz maximum security prison (a  military prison (1868) and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963) on the island of Alcatraz off  San Francisco, California. The Con  Island - Ross Island was for the convicts, who happened to be  Indian freedom fighters under the British rule. 
  
Abandoned Church,Ross Island.www.alphamagazine.ae

The Government of Bengal (British) established  an earliest  penal colony  in 1789  on Chatham Island in the southeast Bay of Great Andaman, now known as Port Blair (after  Archibald Blair  who conducted first survey). Two years later the colony moved  over to NE part   also called Port Cornwallis named  after Admiral William Cornwallis. Though a hospital

Bakery from the British era. Ross Island. en.wikipedia.org


Anandaman Island.www.andamansportsfishing.com
and sanatorium were built between 1789 to 1792 in May 1796 the colony was closed on account of higher mortality rate  and frequent recurrence of diseases. Port Cornwallis was used
as a rendezvous point by the British ships  carrying the army across the Bay of Bengal to the First Anglo-Burmese War front.  The British took it as a great shock when the survivors of the  shipwrecked crews in the 1830s and 1840s  were attacked  and killed by the islanders - mostly Bushmen tribes.  In 1855 the government proposed a new penal colony - convict settlements on the island to deal with convicts and rebels.
 
Ross Island.en.wikipedia.org

During the later  phase of the British rule under the British East India company, Indian people's sufferings reached the summit, every where there was exploitation of Indian natives and   rich  Nawobs and Maharajahs were relegated to the lowly  position of disgrace from the position of sublime and power. There were increased rebellions here and there across the subcontinent, else where the resentment and hatred was slowly simmering.  In military and civil establishments,  all  key positions were reserved for the British sahibs and the top positions held by eligible Indians were of subaltern in nature. In mid 1800s there was widespread discrimination in the  work force, particularly in military. Both  Hindu and Muslim soldiers were treated shabbily. The culmination of the Sepoy mutiny of 1857 was the direct result of frustrations and racial discrimination  Indian suffered under the oppressive British rule and a large number of rebels were arrested during the long- drawn struggle

To accommodate the increasing number of rebels, the British colonial government in India, established in 1858 in the remote Andaman Islands an exclusive convict settlement called ''Ross Island Penal Colony.'' They also set up administrative head quarters for the entire  Andaman and Nicobar Islands and built infrastructures on the site such as  bungalows , living quarters, landing facilities, etc. The penal colony , also known by the infamous name ''Kalapani'' or  "black water  was  more famous  for its notoriety than for its correctional facilities. The remoteness of the place far away from the main land India, where escaping from the camp was an impossible task, was the primary factor to choose the island. Second factor was, it being a secluded and god-forsaken place, if the British were brutish on the convicts or prisoners, such instances would go unnoticed by the outside world, especially the media. The imprisonment in the  far off Andaman islands  would be a deterrent to the future Indian rebels.   

It was here  where the British used their remarkable  level of  ingenuity  in the exercise of brutality against the political prisoners of India. The condition existed there was so inhuman that  many of them had died by 1860 due to illness and extreme  torture inflicted on them  during the initial stages of the clearance of the  wooded areas to establish the colony.
 

The British rulers  secretly conducted various experiments on  various methods of torture and medical tests on trial and error basis that were useful to them in successful application of torture in   running other colonies across the continents. They ran a sort of mini  concentration camp  more or less on par with  those of  Nazi's  famous ones at  Dachau, Mauthausen,  Sobibór, etc.The only difference is, as the British being smart and wily, committed obnoxious treatment of Indians in a subtle manner  unlike Nazi madcaps.

Ross Island, near the entrance to the harbor at Port Blair in South Andamans  is a small island -  a circumference of one mile (1.6 km) only was once known as "Paris of the East"because of its exciting tropical climate and unrestricted social life. It was named after marine surveyor Sir Daniel Ross.

According to writer Shanker Gauri Pandey whose family members   had suffered torture during the Japanese occupation of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has documented that J. P. Walker, an experienced jail superintendent, moved over to Ross Island because of acute water scarcity  at port Blair. For nearly 80 years,  it was the headquarters of the Indian Penal Settlement; a sort of a complete mini town and had   everything - water treatment plant, tennis  court, printing press, secretariat, market place, bazaar, bakery, stores, hospital, church services, cemetery etc. 

 An earthquake in 1941 left the island devastated. To day all one can see are the remnants of some buildings - a reminder of colonial atrocities on the innocent Indian freedom fighters tagged as ''hard core convicts'' - enemies of British establishments. 

 During the Second World War the island was invaded by the Japanese army, forcing the British to evacuate. From 1942 to 1945, the island was under the occupation of Japan. However, the Allied Forces British reoccupied the island in 1945 and later the penal colony was abandoned  on 7 October, 1945

The first batch had 200 prisoners - mostly many prominent leaders of the Wahabi movement (an Islamic "reform movement") under one Dr James Pattison Walker from Calcutta.

Ref:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Island_%28Andaman%29