Ross (con) Island Penal colony - British India 02

 Andaman and Nicobar Islands,

Hilltop Gallows on Viper Island.en. wikipedia. org

During the long British occupation in the Indian continent from 1600s  till August, 1947, the British East India company and later the British Crown committed worst crimes,  many of which were wantonly ignored by the  historians. Among the most disgusting  innumerable historical events  such as - 1. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre (13 April 1919, Punjab) that resulted in the death of more than a 1000 innocent people under the direction of Brig. Gen. Reginald  Dyer, 
The Ross Island Prison HQ,.1872.en.wikipedia. org
British brutality,various fetters, etc.Andaman cellular
2. The  great famines of Bengal in early 1940s in which millions of people died in pain due  to starvation on account of India baiter Prime Minister Churchill's irresponsible act of diverting ships of relief food grains heading for India to British war fronts to take care of British needs 
and  3. Forcing  hard working Indian workers  almost to slavery under the Indian 'Indenture System', a form of debt bondage, by which 3.5 million Indians  were taken to various European
colonies of powers to provide cheap labor for the (mainly sugar) plantation. It began  from the end of slavery in 1833 and continued until 1920. A disparaging act of brutality was let loose by the unscrupulous  British  jail  officials
British brutality.celluar Jail, Andaman.Bull's

on the purported Indian rebels (in the wake of the worst rebellion in British history - Sepoy Mutiny of 1857) who were imprisoned on the Ross Island Penal colony. The prison camp functioned from 1858 till it was disbanded on 7 October 1945  during which time in the damp, filthy crowded environment  Indians faced death, isolation and emancipation. During the same period,  24 Chief Commissioners presided over the British brutality on the poor Indians who wanted to be free from their treacherous rule.

 The following are the facts:

 01. It was the brain child of Archibald Blair who found the remoteness of the island most suitable for building a penal colony. The project could not proceed father beyond 1796 due to out break of Malaria.

02. In the wake of 1857  Sepoy mutiny, the  penal colony  project  got priority  to  imprison  a large  number of rebels.

03. Ross Inland was an deal place to separate the hard core  rebels from the main land. The first batch had 200 prisoners - mostly   many prominent leaders of the Wahabi movement (an Islamic "reform movement") under one Dr. James Pattison Walker, Jail Superintendent from Calcutta.

04. Upon the arrival of additional prisoners  Dr. Walker assigned them the tough job of clearing the dense forest of Ross Island, building their own shelters and other buildings and laying of  roads.

05. The British masters behaved like Gestapos. They took so much pleasure in  chaining the prisoners  and collaring  round the neck with identity tags as if they were wild dogs, irrespective of their health conditions.

06. The British Bobs tested the Indian rebels their level of tolerance and forbearance in the height of barbarity.  With no basic amenities whatsoever   about 1000 Indian prisoners were forced to live in barracks type huts  with  walls made of mat and thatched roof with lots of holes. In the monsoon rainy season, each hut  was a small pond in which they were supposed to take complete rest for the following day's arduous tasks.

07. At one stage there were 8000 prisoners, out of which 3,500 had died due to sickness caused by poor treatment -  the combined effects of exhaustion, disease, starvation, no food, clothing and shelter  and systemic physical brutality.

08. Sir Robert Napier, upon his visit to the Penal Colony - Port Blair, found the conditions of the prisoners  quite appalling  and felt "beyond comprehension.''

09. British gulag", Colonel R. C.  Tytler and his wife Harriet ( April 1862 to February 1864)  improved the conditions there. However, the death rate was way high -  700 per year and 45 prisoners out of the 10,000 were considered medically fit.

10. In the 1870s,  many Indians died from malaria, pneumonia and dysentery during heavy rainy seasons because of poor boarding lodging, and sanitary conditions, besides lack of medical care.

11. During the prevalence of malaria and other deadly diseases in 1870s,  the British medical  experts conducted various experiments with drugs like  quinine (cinchona alkaloid) using Indians as guinea pigs. About 10,000 people were forced to consume this drug. This resulted in  nausea, diarrhea, depression and aggressive behavior. When violence broke out, the military would arrest the rebels and hang them to death, using petty excuses. 

12. In  1891 the freed convicts numbering more than 12,000 were forced to do agricultural works in return  for a paltry sum of $25.00 a month in other colonial  colonies. The working condition  was so bad any attempted escape would mean death. 

13. In 1858, when 81 escapees, out of 288 prisoners  sought freedom and fresh air, had to abandon their attempt as they were  badly attacked by the local   aborigines of Andaman (many of them happened to be cannibals). Upon their return to prison camp for medical help and solace, the merciless British Bobs pounced on them like Tasmanian Devils headed  by J. P. Walker, who had all of them hanged  to death the same day itself!! 

14. Walker, the man with stone heart,  was not reprimanded for this heinous crime. In the same year he put the iron collar on the convicts to prevent escape from the  prison. He also suggested ''branding''(as if they were cattle) the convicts on their forearms with details of crimes committed by them.

15. When the frustration ran high among the Indian prisoners, it ended up in ththe assassination of Lord Mayo, the Viceroy of India on the evening of 8 February, 1872. Sher Ali, was the assassin. Lord Mayo was  on an inspection trip to the island.


The Bengalies constitute  the major population group that  came to the Andaman after Independence in August, 1947. They came as 'settlers'  from Bangladesh (East Pakistan) under the Government rehabilitation scheme, which started as early as 1949 and continued till 1970s.

 At least 5,930 people were believed to have been killed on the Nicobar and Andaman Islands during the 2004 December 26 tsunami disaster.

The Ross Island penal colony is the sad reminder of thousands of high spirited freedom fighters who went through all kinds of pain and sufferings so that, at least, the future Indian generation would  be free from the British yoke and their unjust, oppressive rule.