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Niranjan Takle
Niranjan Takle


Photo fame

34theCellularJail A view of the Cellular Jail | Sanjoy Ghosh

The Cellular Jail in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands was declared a national memorial by prime minister Morarji Desai on February 11, 1979 during his visit to Port Blair. Desai, however, did not visit the cell in which V.D. Savarkar had been kept. He was convinced that Savarkar was complicit in Gandhi's assassination. CID officer Jimmy Nagarwala had kept a close watch on Savarkar Sadan at Dadar in Mumbai and reported about the long meetings Savarkar had with Nathuram Godse and Narayan Apte, who planned and executed the murder.

Today, the jail has an exhibition of photographs and paintings of martyrs and others who took part in India's first war of independence in 1857. Started during prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's tenure, the exhibition also has photographs of RSS founder K.B. Hedgewar and its second sarsanghchalak (head) M.S. Golwalkar. Hedgewar was imprisoned once for supporting the Khilafat movement, but Golwalkar had not participated in the freedom movement. So, what are their photographs doing there? “It is blatantly false glorification of false icons,” says Dr Shamsul Islam, retired professor of political science, Delhi University. “It is an injustice and insult to all the martyrs and freedom fighters.”

In 2002, the Port Blair airport was renamed as the Veer Savarkar Airport. “Subhas Chandra Bose was the only Indian who landed in Port Blair on a plane during the British period. The first-ever tricolour was hoisted in Port Blair by him. The airport should have been named after him,” says A.P. Mohammed, a resident of Port Blair. But photos of Bose have found a place in the exhibition.

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