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Human history is a potpourri of contradictions, especially when it comes to legality, morality and ethics. It is baffling, now, to imagine that holocaust or slavery were considered legal, at one point. If there are any buildings that stand testimony to the vicissitudes of India’s legal history, they are the walls of the legacy prisons of the land. We bring to you an assortment of most historical prison facilities in India:
Tihar Jail, located in New Delhi is the biggest prison complex in South Asia and the most famous in India. The facility has an inmate capacity of over 6000 people. It is a correctional facility that aims to engage its inmates in various cultural and educational activities, thereby improving their moral standards and self-respect. Tihar has its own radio station and arranges for music training sessions and concerts for its inhabitants. Some notable (former or current) inmates of this jail include Sanjay Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Subrata Roy, Charles Sobhraj, and Suresh Kalmadi.
Yerwada Central Jail
Located in Pune, with a campus spread over 512 acres, and a prisoner capacity of above 3500, this is also one of the larger correctional facilities in South Asia. Mahatma Gandhi had been held here during the Indian independence movement. The inmates are provided lessons of Mahatma Gandhi for one year, and they have to clear an examination on the subject. The Yerwada prison has its own textile mill, where the inmates are involved in stitching clothes. They produce 5,000 pieces of garments daily, which are supplied to other prison facilities across the state.
Located in Port Blair, Andaman, it is perhaps the most infamous jail in the history of colonial India. The prison was mainly used by the British to exile political prisoners like Veer Savarkar, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Batukeshwar Dutt, to the islands of Andaman. The facility was retired post India’s independence in 1947. It is preserved as a National Memorial and open to visitors at Port Blair. The building also hosts a light and sound show every day, where the part of India’s heroic independence movement associated with the Cellular Jail is depicted vividly.
Located in Kharagpur, West Bengal, this facility, now known as Shaheed Bhavan, served as a detention camp, during the British era. The prison is best remembered as the spot where two unarmed detainees, Santosh Kumar Mitra and Tarakeswar Sengupta, were shot dead by the British Police in 1930. Netaji himself came to Hijli to collect the bodies of the martyrs. In 1942, the facility was shut down permanently and later, during the Second World War, came to be occupied by the US Air Force. In 1951, the historic landmark became the birthplace of the world famous IIT Kharagpur.
Madras Central Jail
Located in Chennai, this currently decommissioned, 172 years old jail, was one of the oldest in the country. Prisoners were housed here, before being transferred to the Cellular Jail. A few years back, the jail was demolished and reconstructed (2009), and now the reconstructed building is used as a new campus for Madras Medical College. The prisoners from the old building were shifted to the Puzhal Central Prison. It housed the likes of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and Veer Savarkar during the independence movement and M. Karunanidhi, J. Jayalalitha, Velupillai Prabhakaran in recent times.
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