Ritabrata Banerjee on the distortion of history in the Light and Sound show at Cellular jail in the Andaman Cellular Jail

April 12, 2017

Sir, the Andaman Cellular Jail represents the death defying heroism of the indomitable brave hearts who were the finest representatives of the patriotic progressive secular anti imperialist democratic legacies of the Indian people’s struggle against the British Colonial yoke. The majority of the heroes of Andaman braved the harshest and toughest of repression only to record an uncompromising saga of unmatched patriotism.

Unfortunately the Cellular Jail even today is not a National Monument and the Government seems to have no record as far as the jail is concerned.

Not only this popular light and sound programme in the jail continues to ignore most of the heroes and seems to have ignored historical records behind the script.

In a number of answers the Ministry of Culture has only to say that information is being collected. The Ministry does not even knows how many revolutionaries were jailed there though on top of the watch tower marble flakes with the names of the inmates are still there. 90 percent of them hailed from undivided Bengal and Punjab and most of them joined the Communist Party after being released. Revolutionary Ganesh Ghosh even went on to become an elected Member of the other house representing my party the Communist Party of India Marxist.

The jail and the light and sound show dedicates one single cell to be the one of a particular inmate. Historians belonging to all Registered school of histories and the British Archives records that no inmates were kept in a single cell for more than a week. They were rotated. I have asked the government about the authencity of the fixation of a single cell but the Minister said the information is being collected.

Instead of fighting for Indian freedom, that inmate preferred to secure his own freedom, under the most humiliating terms possible. Ignoring and bypassing the Indian National Congress’ demand for his unconditional release, he chose to give an undertaking which in a way was a total surrender, and which made him a public ally of the British policy of divide and rule. It also served the purpose of proving his distance from the politics of the Congress led national movement.

Savarkar had sent two mercy petitions to the colonial government from the Cellular Jail in the Andaman’s. The petition dated November 14, 1913, which refers also to Savarkar's earlier petition of 1911, is reprinted in R.C. Majumdar's `Penal Settlement in Andamans'. The petition assures the British regime:

``Now no man having the good of India and humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore if the Government in their manifold beneficence and mercy, release me I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress.''

He further wrote:

"I hereby acknowledge that I had a fair trial and just sentence. I heartily abhor methods of violence resorted to in days gone by and I feel myself duty bound to uphold law and constitution (British, added) to the best of my powers and am willing to make the reform a success insofar as I may be allowed to do so in future".

The glorification of such a person must stop.

The distortion of history must be corrected on an immediate and real fighters must be given due importance in the light and sound show.