Penal settlement in Andamans-The Beginning

          The original object of establishing a settlement in Andamans was to provide a safe haven for vessels during storms. A regular settlement in the islands was considered as the only remedy for the security of the vessels plying in the region.

      The first attempt to colonise these Islands was made in the year 1789 when a colony was established on Chatham Island by Captain Archibald Blair. This settlement was later moved to Port Cornwallis in North Andaman, the idea being that it would eventually become a naval base. This scheme did not, however, materialize, and the colony was closed in the year 1796.

       The question of establishing a permanent colony in the Andamans as a place of refuge for the crews of ships wrecked on the coasts was again mooted some sixty years later; but the present Penal Settlement was actually established in the year1858 for the accommodation of the vast numbers of prisoners resulting form the quelling of the First War of Indian Independence of 1857 in order to isolate them from the motherland.

       The first batch of 200 freedom fighters of the First War of Independence landed in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands on 10th March 1858, marking the beginning of the penal settlement. All life and long-term prisoners, from eighteen to forty years of age, who on some grounds have escaped the death penalty in India and Burma, were selected for transportation to the penal settlement of Andaman Islands.

        Though the First War of Independence was quelled, the everlasting flame for achieving freedom could not be put out. Freedom Fighters taking part in the Wahabi Movement, participants of Manipur Revolt, and a large number of Burmese from Tharawadda, who had revolted against British rule, were also transported to the penal settlement in the Andaman.