Puslapio vaizdai
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THE

HE sailing of the Maharaja from The prisoners were all manacled, and

Calcutta for the Andaman Islands shackled about the ankles with chains faswas not accompanied by the usual good-bys tened to bands at the waist. They were and handkerchief-waving, for of my fel- a despicable lot. At night a continual low-passengers there were seventy to moaning and cursing and hopeless sobwhom no one wished bon voyage or a safe bing came up from the hatches and made return. These were convicts, all mur- sleep out of the question for me, though derers under life-sentences, who for some the European officer in the steamer's reason had escaped the death-penalty, and cabin apparently slept undisturbed. Early included six women; for the Maharaja is the first morning I went on deck and the ship used by the Colonial Indian Gov- learned that two of the male prisoners ernment to transport convicts to the penal were ill and had been brought up to the settlement near Port Blair, South Anda- deck for air. They were closely guarded, man Island, a distance of 650 miles from and raw recruits were stationed at the Calcutta.

railing to prevent them from committing suicide by jumping overboard into the the Cocos on the north and sailing almost Hugli River.

the entire length of the islands. The first I had with me Subodha, a native East buildings to be seen were the government Indian photographer, and an assistant, and salt-works, and then Viper Island, on at Rangoon I secured eight Hindu coolie which is situated the cellular jail and bearers, who accepted me as their sahib other prison-buildings. The cellular jail without question, and with only the is the first home of the life-prisoners, and vaguest idea of where they were going. is locally known as “hell,” and not unKumali, one of these, proved a valuable justly, as the inhabitants in and around man. He was a Hindu, resourceful and the settlement can testify. a reputed snake-charmer.

The Andamans are literally the home The Andaman group of islands are situ- of murderers. The inhabitants are the ated in the Bay of Bengal between the most vicious members of an older civilizaparallels of 10° 30' and 14° 15' north tion and the uncivilized head-hunters, latitude and the meridians 92° 10' and among whom murder is a sport and a pas93° 30' east longitude, where they lie in time. In the settlement are about 1700 a north-by-east direction. The principal prisoners, including 800 women. On arislands are Great and Little Andamans, riving at Port Blair, the prisoners first Rutland and the Labyrinths, the Archi- spend six months in solitary confinement pelago, Baratang, North Sentinel, Inter- in the cellular jail of Viper Ísland. They view Island, Landfall Island, and the are then transferred to one of the assoCocos. The five largest islands lie north ciated jails and the comparative blessing and south, and form a meridional line 142 of hard labor in company with others, miles long, the breadth at the widest point though still occupying separate cells at being seventeen miles. They are so nearly night. After a year and a half of this they joined together that they have long been become slaves, working in and about the known as the Great Andamans.

settlement during the day and sleeping in The surface is extremely irregular, and barracks at night, always closely guarded. a central range of mountains runs from At the expiration of five years, a convict north to south, with an escarpment on the becomes eligible to join the colony of "selfeast and a sloping declivity on the west, supporters" and live in the village, where where marshy localities, covered by ex- he earns his living in his chosen way, lives ceedingly dense tropical jungle, abound. in his own house, and can send for his wife The hills rise, especially on the east coastand children or marry a convict woman. to a considerable elevation, and are cov- In a limited sense he becomes a paterered by dense forests. Owing to its shape familias, but is always carefully watched, and conformation, there are no rivers and and cannot leave the settlement without but few perennial streams, and during the permission. dry season- from January to April - Through all the stages of penal serviwater is scarce.

tude caste is preserved, the high-caste A geographical description of the An- Hindu not even touching a vessel that has damans conveys only the slightest idea of been used by a low-caste brother, and the the physical conditions to be met with, for Mohammedans' rations are served and once away from the coast and in the

eaten apart from the others. labyrinthian tropical jungle, all sense of Despite the rigid discipline and the direction and location leaves one, and at vigilance of the authorities, the communal every advancing step new impediments to life is far from harmonious, and the more locomotion are encountered. But withal vicious often rebel. 'The murderers kill it is wildly beautiful, fascinating; the one another, and are in turn murdered by charm of the tropical sun and shadows is the treacherous Andamanese, who regard over all the grandeur of flora and fauna, the hapless convicts and their guards as and the unashamed little black children their natural prey. Occasional attempts of the hour who live and have their being at escape are made by the prisoners, but amid these surroundings are a picturesque the efforts inevitably prove disastrous, the and happy lot-when viewed from a dis- fugitive, finding his conditional freedom tance. But first we must land.

worse than servitude, either dies at the This we did at Port Blair, after passing hands of the Jarawa warriors, falls a victim of fever or other disease, or starves. was later found to be an escaped convict There is also a system in vogue by which from the penal settlement at Viper Island. the more friendly tribes of savages co- When picked up, he had been on the raft operate with the authorities in capturing for twenty-nine days during one of the escaped convicts and receive rewards for southwest monsoons, and had secured the return of the unhappy deserters. water by catching the rain and sucking it More often, however, the head-hunters from his turban and loin-cloth. He lived kill the fugitive and return only the head, upon flying-fish that flew aboard the raft,

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receiving the reward just the same, the eating them raw. He was swept off the killing adding zest to the chase and the raft many times by the waves, but had returning of the head being the easiest managed to cling to it. After a month in and quickest way of earning the reward. a hospital at Rangoon, he was returned to

Under these conditions there are few Viper Island prison and solitary confineattempts at escape, though many remarka- ment. bly hazardous dashes for liberty have been Another daring attempt at escape was made from time to time, which, though made by a party of six convicts who were futile, were most daring. Sometime ago sent with two native policemen to a small the steamer Fultata picked up a poor, ema- island off the Middle Andaman to work. ciated wretch who was sighted on a small They managed to escape from the guards, bamboo raft off the Arakan coast. He and, hoisting the sail of the small boat,

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