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 Barefoot
 History

 

The history of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands lies shrouded in mystery and legend.


Apart from brief interludes where the Cholas and Marathas used parts of the Andaman and Nicobar as a base, sporadic exploratory missions by European naval powers and fleeting references from travellers such as Marco Polo, the history of the Andaman Islands is that of the aboriginal inhabitants, some of whom still remain in varying degrees of solitude.


The more recent history of the Andamans starts with the establishment of British bases and a penal colony in the 18th century. The construction of the infamous Cellular Jail ""Kalapani" or "Black Waters" (Parents often warned their truant children that they would be sent to Kalapani if they did not behave) was completed in 1908 at the cost of Rs. 500,000. Every brick used in its construction was brought in from Burma and the prisoners themselves were made the laborers.


Numerous anti-British Indians were tortured to death and executed here. During the British occupation, Islands were named after Generals who fought during the great Indian Mutiny of 1857, and till date these Islands retain those very same English names. Several Islands including Port Blair, Havelock, John Lawrence, Henry Lawrence, Duncan Island, Nicholson Island and many more can be sited as examples of this.


With the Second World War, Japanese troops occupied the islands and the local tribes initiated guerrilla activities to drive them out. Under Japanese occupation, several bunkers were built all around these Island, many of which are still standing.


The Japanese viewed local islanders as spies and many of them lost their lives as a result. Interestingly, when Netaji Subash Chandra Bose (one of the most influential leaders in the Indian independence movement) visited these Islands as an ally to the Japanese and he was made to visit Cellular Jail but was consciously prevented from visiting the section where locals were jailed on charges of spying.


On 29th December 1943, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose hoisted the flag of independent India on the island. He also established the first independent government here. Netaji renamed these islands as 'Swaraj' (Self-rule) and 'Shaheed' (Martyr). General Loganathan of the Indian National Army was appointed as the Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The headquarters of the Civil Administration was set up on 21st March, 1944 near the Gurudwara at Aberdeen Bazaar.


When India achieved independence in 1947, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were incorporated into the Indian Union.