The century old Cellular Jail in Andaman and Nicobar Islands -- a mute testimony to India’s long history of freedom struggle -- is all set for a major conservation drive. The jail, designed much like the spokes of a bicycle wheel with seven wings for solitary confinement, will receive a makeover, while its museum will be soon upgraded.
A new version of the popular ‘Son-et-lumiere’ (sound and light show) that retells the touching story of the jail and the brave role played by our freedom fighters will be put together for visitors.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration has roped in the Archaeological Survey of India for the project. After almost one year of study and research of the National Memorial Cellular Jail the conservation work is soon to begin in the jail that housed revolutionaries like Veer Savarkar, Bhai Parmanand and Sher Ali and stands witness to horrific tales of the infamous ‘Kala Pani’ prison during British rule.
Constructed in 1906, the jail had seven blocks of which only two survived after it came under attack from the Japanese army during World War II. Later some blocks also weathered down. In 1979 the government accorded it the status of a ‘National Memorial’ and now it has turned out to be a pilgrimage of sorts for all tourists visiting the Island’s capital, Port Blair.
Though the Cellular Jail is still in good condition, the ASI has found problems related to water seepage from the terrace and minor cracks in the vaulted roof of a few cells and on the terrace. Locals says Veer Savarkar had written poems on the walls of his cell, which overlooked the gallows used to hang prisoners, which were later erased as no one took care while white-washing the jail. Though other such important historical evidences have been lost, the administration still feels that renewed effort to conserve the premises would be a befitting tribute to all the freedom fighters.
Efforts are also being made to upgrade the current museum and galleries housing items and articles used by freedom fighters. The plan is to display information, artefacts and photos in a presentable manner by using improved and modern methods. They will also ensure that the modernisation aesthetically merges with the environment and sanctity of the monument. Advice of global experts is also being sought.