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Dr Harish K Puri wrote Ghadari Babas at Kalapani Jail. Dr. Harish is a distinguished professor of Political Science at Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar and the director of the Dr. BR Ambedkar chair. He has written extensively on topics like political movements, ethnic issues, caste current events, religion, terrorism, and federalism. Ghadar movement: ideology, organisation and strategy, Understanding terrorism in Punjab, Social and Political movements and others are among his works.
Dr. Harish Puri shares a horrifying tale of a cellular jail known as Kalapani Jail in this excerpt. During the early years of the twentieth century, Britishers formed this prison in the Andaman Islands to isolate and torture Indian independence fighters.
The Ghadar Party
Ghadar Party was founded by Indian immigrants as well as revolutionary exiles such as Lala Har Dayal in the United States and Canada, with the goal of launching and sustaining the battle for India’s independence. Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Baba Nidhan Singh, Kartar Singh Sarabha, and Vishnu Ganesh Pingley were all significant members of the Ghadar party.
The cellular jail was located in Port Blair, in the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal, and was appropriately called “the Devil’s Island” by Dr Harish Puri. Kalapani Jail was another name for it. The prison was built with the intent of isolating and tormenting the Ghadar insurgents in 1857. The first batch of inmates sent to the Kalapani Jail were Bengali rebels convicted in the Alipore Conspiracy case. Others from the Nashik conspiracy case comprised the next batch. V.D. Savarkar and Ganesh Savarkar were among the participants. The Lahore Supplementary Conspiracy Case and the Mandalay Conspiracy Case both resulted in more offenders being arrested.
The Ghadari Babas’ Tribulations
Because of the severe environment, which was filled with mosquitoes and blood sucking leeches, many of the captives acquired TB, high fever, diarrhoea, and asthma. The convicts’ daily rounds of backbreaking labour included crushing coconut husk to obtain threads and labouring on the oil mill to obtain a minimum of 30 pounds of coconut oil.
They would be subjected to filthy mistreatment, including up to 30 lashes of a whip in public with blood gushing from the skin, if they did not meet the requisite quantity. This was all part of the blatantly revolting experience. Each of the patriots was confined to a cramped, dirty cell where they were forbidden from communicating with one another.
Over a dozen renowned revolutionaries, including Barin Ghose, VD Savarkar, Trailokyanath Chakraborty, and others, offered explicit and heart-breaking details of retaliatory ways of cruel torture of political captives in their testimonies. All of the witnesses described the jailer, Superintendent Murray, and Chief Commissioner as “butcher” and “progeny of Satan.” The convicts remembered how David Barry would address a new batch of prisoners, urging them to obey the regulations to the extreme. Aurobindo Ghose reported David Barry as saying, “May God help you if you disobey me!” At the very least, I will not. God does not come within 3 miles of Port Blair.”
The torture of political convicts brought sadistic pleasure to the jail warders, petty officials, and jamadar. Barin Ghose nicknamed them “small gods” since they made the captives’ lives practically miserable. The accounts about little Nani Gopal’s cries due of the brutal whiplashing, his hunger strikes that lasted days, and the tortures smuggled out by Savarkar caused a stir in the country’s media.
Hearing this, the other Ghadarites decided not to be subjected to any further humiliation or abuse without a strong counterattack. When Parmanand Jhansi was threatened and insulted for not producing enough oil, she retaliated by hitting the jailer. As a result, the jailer collapsed, and Jhansi was thrashed hard by the warders as a punishment. Following the Ghadarites’ mutiny against the jailers, a terrible chain of events occurred.
After slapping Superintendent Murray, Chattar Singh was placed in a cage with standing bar chains. Bhan Singh was tortured so badly that he died in the hospital from his injuries. Eight Ghadarites were killed in the Cellular prison as a result of a series of similar incidents.
Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna, Prithvi Singh, Udham Singh Kasail, Wasakha Singh, and Jyotish Chandra Pal are just a few of the personalities Dr Harish Puri discusses. In the face of terrible pain, their persistent united resistance inspired legendary stories of their battle. Singing vande Mataram, reading Gurbani, and accepting the harshest physical penalties in this manner was like establishing a new culture of dignity in combating violent powers with soul force till they were freed on the mainland.