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Part 7 -Savarkar - Hell Persecution At Cellular Jail

To Read Part 6: Savarkar : Way To Dreaded Andaman

In the last article we have seen that Savarkar was first taken to Byculla and then to Thane from the prison of Dongri. He was then taken to Madras (Chennai) and then to Andaman by the ship ‘Maharaja’ in special protection. An apartment was vacated at cellular jail specially to isolate him.                    The punishment of ‘Kala Pani’ was literally just like hell. The infamous police superintendent Mr.Barrie had announced himself as a Supreme Authority. The worst punishment in this confinement was the labour of the oil mill. Normally bulls were used to turn the oil wheel but at the confinement it was to be carried out by the prisoners as their daily labour. It was mandatory to grind 30 pounds of oil daily. Superintendent Mr.Barrie forced Barrister Savarkar to that physical torment of turning the oil mill.  Many a time he exhausted and fainted while turning the oil wheel. He had experienced fatigue and severe body pain at night. He used to spend the whole night on the wooden plank restlessly.                 Once Mr.Barrie entered when he was turning the oil wheel and said that the neighboring laborer had ground 30 pounds of oil and you could not do it even at the end of the day but 2 pounds less every day. You should be ashamed for the same.

Sketch by Darshan Rathi

  Savarkar replied in his own style,“I might have felt ashamed if I have had practiced labour but if you asked that labourer to write a poem it would not be possible for him. I could write a poem in half an hour.”               No one from the cellular jail had dared to back answer Superintendent Mr.Barrie  like him. Mr.Barrie was surprised to experience such a rude answer. He was lucky not to have any audience to hear this conversation.              Vinayak Savarkar was followed by many Prisoners at the cellular jail as well because of his ventures and impressive personality. Many Prisoners helped him in washing his clothes and dishes secretly. Sometimes they were caught and punished by Mr.Barrie. But they didn’t stop helping him. Savarkar preferred to work independently and never liked to burden anyone.               As per the rule every Prisoner was allowed to live out of the cellular jail after the completion of a year. Savarkar applied for the same to the Chief Commissioner but in return got the reply from British government, “Though your behavior in the jail is good you are not allowed to take this privilege considering your earlier records.” It meant that the British Government could not forget his frightful dive at Marseilles.             Many times Savarkar was  tortured and laboured at the jail. Once he thought of committing suicide. Later on he convinced himself that committing suicide is a sinful act. He realized that he had to face the torturous life to serve his nation. He decided to strive for the freedom struggle till the last breath.

                  Facing the inhumane torture and pain was not easy. Suicidal thoughts were but natural. But Savarkar was not a coward. He turned to be optimistic and stated that "The fire would not burn my will   The sword would not be able to kill    But the coward death would flee” (Original Marathi Poem 'Anadi Mi....')                  In this way he was ready to face every challenge, ready to bear the pain. He struggled for the betterment of the prisoners. Every prisoner at the cellular jail was tortured. There was no humanity. The Prisoners were actually the political leaders, Freedom fighters involved in the freedom struggle against the British Government. They were not the criminals.                All the prisoners appealed to the Chief Commissioner to reduce their labour under his leadership but all the petitions were rejected. Savarkar called for a strike  to oppose the government’s decision. Mr.Barrie tried to break the rebellion. The prisoners could not do much. But the news spread all over in India and Jailor was surprised and enraged by its spread.                     The situation was out of control and so the home minister of India Mr.Crodoc travelled to Andaman in 1913 to settle the issue. To the effect prisoners’ torture and labour was reduced. To the effect the inhumane torture was much less than the earlier.                   No prisoners were allowed to talk with each other in the prisons. If they found talking the superintendent would surely punish them for the offence. Savarkar invented and designed a sign language to overcome the ban of verbal communication. Shackles in their hands were used to produce some particular sounds and those sounds were the code words.  It was written in Roman script by Vinayak Savarkar  and then translated in Devnagari script by his brother, Ganesh Savarkar .The prisoners  learnt  the language and the sound of shackles was heard everywhere. The messages were passed smoothly but the superintendent was confused. He could not understand how the news spread all over without verbal communication between the prisoners.               Step by step Savarkar started adult education in the cellular jail. The illiterate prisoners were taught reading and writing by literate one’s. Savarkar started teaching history as well. He had collected 2,000 books in the library of Cellular jail.              He fought against the forceful process of ‘Religion Conversion’ and tried to stop it. He even fought for the innocent prisoners who were sent to Andaman and tried hard to send them back to India. He was serving India by staying at the jail in Andaman as a prisoner.               Five year of physical torment passed in this way. The period of 45 years was yet to pass. His health was affected because of the sick weather at Andaman. He became home sick. His elder brother was in  the same jail still far away. The golden flourishing years were passing by. The free time was passed in writing poems on the walls of the prison. The life ahead was doubtful. The mere truth of his life was ‘Kala Pani and the life imprisonment.’              In spite of all the tortures, how did Vinayak Savarkar turned out to be a blazing sun? Be with us to know it in the next article.

- Apoorv Shriniwas Kulkarni

To Read Part 8: Savarkar : Where is 'Emden' ?

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