Soon a replica of the world-famous Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, along with some original fittings and articles, will be seen in Mumbai at the country's first upcoming museum dedicated to revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle.
The museum will come up on 10,000 sq ft at the existing 'Swatantryaveer Savarkar Rashtriya Smarak' at Dadar, which is a national monument to one such revolutionary, Vinayak D. Savarkar, famous as Veer Savarkar.
According to his grand-nephew, Ranjit V. Savarkar, the museum will be an ultra-modern one with special 3D effects to highlight the struggles and travails undergone by Savarkar in the dreaded 'Kala Pani' jail. "Veer Savarkar spent 14 years in an isolated cell in the Cellular Jail and another 13 years under house arrest in Ratnagiri, coastal Maharashtra," Ranjit V. Savarkar, who is also executive president of SSRS, told IANS.
He said many people in the country have little or no idea of the Cellular Jail situated on a remote group of islands in the Bay of Bengal, around 1,200 km from Kolkata and Chennai. "Many people want to go there and witness its historical past but are constrained by various factors. A replica with some of the original articles from that jail would enable the new generation, especially the school and college youth, to get a glimpse of its history," he added.
Caption: Parts of the historic Cellular Jail recreated at a Mumbai
museum for Indian revolutionaries.
SSRS president Arun S. Joshi said while some of Veer Savarkar's belongings have already been brought to Mumbai, a team will leave for Andaman and Nicboar Islands Feb 1 to bring back some other articles. "So far we have brought a couple of the original doors of the iron cell where he was lodged, some heavy iron chains and cuffs with which he was tied on the arms and legs, his jail clothes and other small items," Joshi told IANS.
Now, the SSRS team plans to request the jail authorities to hand over other belongings or items used by Veer Savarkar there. "This will include a huge crushing instrument to which the prisoners were chained and forced to move around to crush and extract oil from dried coconuts, one of the most dreaded forms of rigorous labour in those times," Joshi said.
For the past three years, SSRS has been in regular touch with the jail authorities seeking custody of Veer Savarkar's items which can be displayed at its Mumbai premises, he added. "It is now more than 45 years since Veer Savarkar died after giving up food and water for several days. However, there is not a single museum in India dedicated to armed contribution or revolutionaries in the country's freedom movement," Ranjit V. Savarkar explained.
"Besides Veer Savarkar, the museum will also depict major events spanning 1857-1947 in which armed freedom fighters also played a significant role." The SSRS plans to have a full-fledged library of all available literature around the country at the proposed museum. So far, the SSRS has already uploaded for free download all the writings, including books, poems and plays, penned by Veer Savarkar.
Both Joshi and Ranjit V. Savarkar said while the contribution of the unarmed (non-violent) freedom fighters has been focussed upon for the past six decades, the struggle of armed revolutionaries has been relegated to the fringes of history.
"One of the aims of the museum is to enable people get a total picture of the Indian freedom struggle with the valuable contribution of people like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Vinayak D. Savarkar, the Bhagat Singh-Sukhdeo-Rajguru trio, and many others around the country," Joshi said. The three-storeyed Cellular Jail, constructed between 1896 and 1906, originally had seven wings in a circular design with a tall watch tower and a bell at its centre.
Two of the wings were destroyed after the Japanese invasion of the islands in 1942 and its reign there till 1945 - when the British re-captured it. Since India's Independence in 1947, the jail's 693 tiny cells remained vacant even as two more wings were demolished. The remaining three wings were converted into a 500-bed public hospital for the local population in 1963, though Veer Savarkar's original cell has still been preserved.
Later, in 1969, the premises of the entire Cellular Jail and the watch tower at the centre were declared as a 'national monument'. Incidentally, the Cellular Jail was made famous in a Bollywood movie in 1996, "Sazaa-e-Kala Pani," a multi-lingual classic directed by Priyadarshan which won three national awards and six Kerala state awards.