Andaman Islands

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Andaman Islands

Cellular Jail





            Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a string of 300 tropical islands which lie scattered halfway between Calcutta and the equator. The area of the Andamans is 6,408 sq km. Most of the Andamans are hilly and forested, Saddle Peak on North Andaman, which rises to 732 m, is the highest point. The land area of the Nicobars is about 1,645 sq km.

The inhabitants, live on 12 of the islands, particularly Car Nicobar in the north. Great Nicobar, the largest and southernmost island in the group, is virtually uninhabited. The capital of this Union Territory is Port Blair on Andaman Islands. The existence of these islands was first reported in the 9th century by Arab merchants, who sailed past them on their way to the straits of Sumatra.

The first western visitor was Marco Polo who called it the land of the head hunters. The islands were annexed by the Marathas in the late 17th century. In the early, 18th century, the islands were the base of Maratha admiral Kanhoji Angre, whose navy frequently captured British, Dutch and Portuguese merchant ships. Angre remained undefeated by the combined British/Portuguese naval task force, right up to his death in 1729.

          Andaman and Nicobar Islands were finally annexed by the British in the 19th century and used as a penal colony for Indian freedom fighters. The penal settlement known as Kala Pani or Black Water where the most criminals were sent, never to be seen again.

In the notorious 'Cellular Jail' many of the inmates were executed, either judicially or clandestinely. During World War II the Japanese occupied the islands and were not welcomed as liberators and  created their own record of cruelty. The local tribes took up guerrilla activities against the Japanese. After India gained independence in 1947, the islands were incorporated into the Indian Union.

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