Ever since my childhood when the elders in the family would narrate traumatic tales of the young revolutionaries banished to 'Kala Pani', I would feed extremely moved. As I grew up, a number of questions started cropping up in my mind. Who were these valiant men and what moral fibers were they made of? Why did they voluntarily choose the path of suffering and sacrifice by waging a struggle against a mighty empire? Why did the alien rulers decide to deport them to a distant island, separated from the mainland, by nearly a thousand kilometers of deep water? Why were they held in solitary confinement (which can reduce the strongest of men into mental wrecks) in dungeons of the Cellular Jail, which can aptly be described as a medieval Bastille or a modern Abu Gharaib.
My appointment as Law Secretary, Andaman and Nicobar Administration, was a blessing in disguise, which gave me an opportunity to find the answers to these nagging questions. My research took me to National Archives in Delhi and the National Library in Kolkata. I managed to lay my hands on the biographical accounts of those who themselves had undergone long periods of incarceration in the Cellular Jail and survived to tell their tale. Among those who has shed considerable light are Barinder Kumar Ghose (The Tale of my Exile), Bhai Parmanand (The Story of My Life), Sohan Singh Bhakna (Jivan Sangram), Veer Savarkar (The Story of My Transportation for life), Baba Prithivi Singh Azad (An Autobiography) and Bejoy Kumar Sinha (In Andamans the Indian Bastille).
I was privileged enough to personally meet some of the surviving revolutionaries who were invited to the Andamans on 20 October 1990 at the inauguration of the Light & Sound programme in the Cellular Jail. Among these were V.N. Mathur, Bangeswar Roy, Biru Bhusan Chakravarty, Gopal Acharya, Bejoy Krishana Banerjee, Probodh Kumar Roy and Bhupal Pandey. They were, no doubt, weak in flesh but their spirit was strong during my tenure of more than two year on the Andamans. I paid repeated visits to the jail, and each time I found myself amidst the souls of the brave, as it were. It was a nightmarish experience.
What emerged from these studies was a horrid tale of persecution of these freedom fighters. The rigours of the jail regimen and the physical and mental torture took a heavy toll. Some attained martyrdom in the confines of the jail while others were reduced to physical wrecks. Many visitors even now are moved to tears at the sight of the flogging stand, oil mill and other instruments of torture on display in the jail museum. But these were men of indomitable courage and refused to bend before a ruthless foreign ruler. From behind the high walls of the prison house, the strains of 'Vande Mataram' could be heard wafting over the waves of the Bay of Bengal.
I have recorded in this book, all the information I was able to gather. This is only a small and humble offering to the memory of these brave sons of the motherland. I have no pretence to being a scholar or a historian. If I succeed in generating more interest and an enduring study on the role and contribution of these little known and largely unsung heroes of the freedom movement, I would be amply rewarded.
The Cellular Jail, located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, commonly known as Kala Pani, celebrates its centenary on 10 March 2006. This is an occasion to spare a somber thought for those gallant men who gave their lives on the altar of India's freedom. Of all the prison houses where political prisoners were confined, the most dreaded one was the Cellular Jail at Port Blair. Built at a carefully chosen location on the Andaman Island, more than a thousand kilometers away from the main land, it was big enough to hold in solitary confinement 690 prisoners whom the alien rulers declared as 'dangerous' because they posed a threat to the Empire.
Some of those who were deported to the Andamans never returned home. They perished; perished for the sake of the freedom of their motherland. There were a few pictures available, hazy and scattered, about the sacrifices made and the suffering undergone by these martyrs. The Heroes of Cellular Jail seeks to place together these stories of bravery, sacrifice and martyrdom. The heroes of Cellular Jail were those patriots who were convinced that the country where they were born, which they loved and which really belonged to them, was superior to all other countries and no alien had the right to place it under the yoke of its rule. These martyrs underwent torture and also laid down their lives which was not for the sake of any reward or recognition. Posterity owes an obligation to remember these freedom fighters and recount their stories to the next generation so as to understand and appreciate the price paid by those heroes for our freedom. It is the recollection of those heroic tales which will inspire our youth to preserve the sanctity of freedom.
Justice S.N. Aggarwal has done a service to the nation by bringing out in graphic detail the valiant stories which, but for the effort made by him, would have escaped being recorded in history. His painstaking effort deserves all appreciation and compliments. The very fact that this second edition in being brought out in less than 12 years of the first edition bears testimony to the fact that the book has commended itself well to the readers. Justice Aggarwal has availed this opportunity to supply more details of the heroic struggle centering around the Andamans and the Cellular Jail. The readers would find the book interesting and engrossing.
The Heroes of Cellular Jail unfolds the sage of heroic deeds of the young revolutionaries during India's struggle for freedom. It was their immense devotion to their motherland that led them to perform valiant deeds. The story forms a glorious chapter in the history of the freedom movement.
Many patriots were prosecuted and, after sham trials, sentenced to imprisonment for life. Put in chains and fetters, they were banished to the Andaman and Nicobar islands and confined to the dark dungeons of the Cellular Jail. These brave soldiers underwent untold afflictions and suffered extreme physical and mental torture. Inside the jail they fought many a battle and put up a strong resistance against the malevolent treatment. They fought for human dignity, exhibited unparalleled courage and dogged perseverance. They were great in their deeds and greater in their sufferings. The exploits of the heroes of the Cellular Jail built up a legacy to be cherished for all time.
The author's primary objective is to bring into sharp focus the great sacrifices made and the heroic deeds scripted by the brave sons of the motherland while undergoing imprisonment in this infamous jail. Free from intellectual obscurantism, the whole narration is presented in a style marked by felicitous prose and emotive expression.
This chronicle, garnished by the personal memoirs of those who were themselves lodged in the Cellular Jail, is bound to move the reader.
Justice S. N. Aggarwal, after a brief stint at the High Court Bar, joined the State Judicial Service and saw postings at various places in Punjab. He was elevated as a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2004.
Justice Aggarwal belongs to a family of freedom fighters and that, perhaps, infused in him a desire to put on record little known facts relating to the contribution of young revolutionaries to the freedom movement. His appointment as Law Secretary of the Andaman and Nicobar administration at Port Blair brought him closer to realising his dream. He has also authored two other books: Law on Religious and Charitable Endowments and low on Maintenance.
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