Ritabrata Banerjee: Correcting a historical wrong in Cellular Jail

The CPI(M) MP said while Andaman’s Cellular jail displays names of even ‘approvers’ who apologised to British rulers, names of teenaged revolutionaries of Chittagong Armoury Raid case are missing

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

NH Political Bureau

Text from the Communist Party of India MP’s intervention in the Rajya Sabha on Friday, February 3

Andaman Cellular Jail is one of the tallest monuments to the freedom struggle but unfortunately not under the Archaeological Survey of India. I urge upon the Government to bring the Andaman Cellular Jail under the Archaeological Survey of India.

Revolutionaries were given life sentence and dispatched by colonial rulers to the Andaman Jail in two phases. In the first phase, they were incarcerated before the first World War and in the second phase after the second World War.

Significantly, in the Cellular Jail, the first phase of revolutionaries sent there are registered and chronicled properly. But the second phase is not properly recorded and their names are displayed selectively.

This is unfortunate. When we go to the Watch Tower at the top of the Cellular Jail, there are marble plaques bearing names of the revolutionaries. Not surprisingly, a majority of the names carved there are from Bengal.

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Museum within Cellular Jail national memorial, Port Blair

But in the process, people seem to have forgotten the historic Chittagong youth rebellion. It was one of the most important landmarks during the freedom struggle in undivided India. The rebellion was led by a young schoolmaster and 60 of his young students.

These school students had raided the armoury. They cut off the telegram and telephone posts and severed all connections between Calcutta and Chittagong. For two years, Chittagong declared independence.

The rebellion was put down. Many of these revolutionaries died. Among those who were given death sentences, majority were under 18 years and their death sentences were converted to life imprisonment. They were sent to the Andaman Cellular Jail to complete their jail term. The youngest was a 13 year old boy.

But names of these heroic revolutionaries are missing in the Andaman Cellular Jail. The display in the museum and at the watch tower has blanked out their names. Names of these people must be included. Incidentally, revolutionary Ganesh Ghosh happened to be an elected Member of the other House of the Parliament representing the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

These people who were involved in the Chittagong Armoury case, did not give in writing to the British Government that they would be approvers of the British Government. But while the jail displays prominently the names of approvers, these revolutionaries from Chittagong are surprisingly missing.

I urge upon the Government to look into this part of our glorious history and ensure that these revolutionaries are honoured and given their due.

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Published: 06 Feb 2017, 3:12 PM