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The Andaman Islands Penal Colony: Race, Class, Criminality, and the British Empire

  • Clare Anderson (a1)
Abstract

This article explores the British Empire’s configuration of imprisonment and transportation in the Andaman Islands penal colony. It shows that British governance in the Islands produced new modes of carcerality and coerced migration in which the relocation of convicts, prisoners, and criminal tribes underpinned imperial attempts at political dominance and economic development. The article focuses on the penal transportation of Eurasian convicts, the employment of free Eurasians and Anglo-Indians as convict overseers and administrators, the migration of “volunteer” Indian prisoners from the mainland, the free settlement of Anglo-Indians, and the forced resettlement of the Bhantu “criminal tribe”. It examines the issue from the periphery of British India, thus showing that class, race, and criminality combined to produce penal and social outcomes that were different from those of the imperial mainland. These were related to ideologies of imperial governmentality, including social discipline and penal practice, and the exigencies of political economy.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
E-mail: ca26@le.ac.uk
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*

The research leading to these results received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013)/ERC Grant Agreement 312542. It also received support from the Economic and Social Research Council (award no. RES-000-22-3484). I thank Shabnum Tejani for inviting me to share an early version of this work at the history research seminar at SOAS, University of London, and the participants at that gathering for their insightful comments. I also thank Keith Wilson for allowing me access to his private papers on the Deakes family, and especially Eileen Arnell for her support for this research.

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1 Anderson, Clare, Mazumdar, Madhumita, and Pandya, Vishvajit, New Histories of the Andaman Islands: Landscape, Place, and Identity in the Bay of Bengal, 1790–2012 (Cambridge, 2016); Aggarwal, S.N., The Heroes of Cellular Jail (Patiala, 1995); Mathur, L.P., Kala Pani: History of Andaman and Nicobar Islands with a Study of India’s Freedom Struggle (New Delhi, 1985); Sen, Satadru, Disciplining Punishment: Colonialism and Convict Society in the Andaman Islands (New Delhi, 2000); Sherman, Taylor C., “From Hell to Paradise? Voluntary Transfer of Convicts to the Andaman Islands, 1921–1940”, Modern Asian Studies, 43:2 (2009), pp. 367388 ; Srivastava, Pramod Kumar, “Resistance and Repression in India: The Hunger Strike at the Andaman Cellular Jail in 1933”, Crime, History and Societies, 7:2 (2003), pp. 81102 ; Vaidik, Aparna, Imperial Andamans: Colonial Encounter and Island History (Basingstoke, 2010).

2 Until the 1911 Census, “Anglo-Indian” described British people living in India. The words “Eurasian” and occasionally “Indo-European” signalled mixed heritage, with European descent always measured through the patrilineal line. After the 1911 Census, the term “Anglo-Indian” replaced “Eurasian”. Note that people of Anglo-Burmese heritage were a significant element of the census category, though they were not usually distinguished from each other.

3 Report of the Indian Jails Committee, 1919–20 (London, 1921), ch. 11. See also Sherman, “From Hell to Paradise?”.

4 Anderson, Clare, “Colonization, Kidnap and Confinement in the Andamans Penal Colony, 1771–1864”, Journal of Historical Geography, 37:1 (2011), pp. 6881 ; Sen, Satadru, Savagery and Colonialism in the Indian Ocean: Power, Pleasure and the Andaman Islanders (New York, 2010).

5 Dhingra, Kiran, The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Twentieth Century: A Gazetteer (New Delhi, 2005), p. 227 .

6 National Archives of India (NAI) Home (Port Blair) A proceedings January 1883, nos 36–9: J.H. Roberts to Secretary to Government of India, 25 August 1882; M. Protheroe to Secretary to Government of India, 31 October 1882; note of D[onald] M[artin] S[tewart] (former Chief Commissioner and member of council for the Secretary of State for India), 27 December 1882.

7 White people born in India.

8 Anderson, Clare, Subaltern Lives: Biographies of Colonialism in the Indian Ocean World, 1790–1920 (Cambridge, 2012), pp. 6972 . More generally, and for the earlier period, see Hawes, C.J., Poor Relations: The Making of a Eurasian Community in British India 1773–1833 (London, 1996).

9 India Office Records, British Library (IOR) P/434/8 India (Public) 11 December 1867: Inspection report by Major H.N. Davies, Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, enc. Nominal roll showing the number of European, Eurasian, and Native convicts receiving upwards of Rs. 8 a month, on the 23rd April, at the several settlements of Port Blair; Tamil Nadu State Archives (TNSA) Madras (Judicial) 27 July 1877, 151–6: Memorandum of D.F. Carmichael, Chief Secretary to the Madras government, to the Commissioner of Police Madras, 8 June 1877.

10 TNSA Madras (Judicial) 5 April 1869, nos 66–7: H. Man, officiating Superintendent Port Blair, to R.S. Ellis, Chief Secretary to Madras government, 9 February 1869, enc. petition of Martin Murphy, 23 January 1869. Fragmentary evidence from judicial proceedings in Bengal, Bombay, and Madras Presidency suggest that a handful of ticket-of-leave Europeans (i.e. prisoners on probation) were sent to Western Australia, until at least 1859.

11 Harald Fischer-Tiné, “Hierarchies of Punishment in Colonial India: European Convicts and the Racial Dividend, c.1860–1890”, in idem and Susanne Gehrmann (eds), Empires and Boundaries: Rethinking Race, Class, and Gender in Colonial Settings (London, 2008), pp. 41–65.

12 IOR P/146/29 Bengal (Jails) 17 July 1860, nos 48–55: proposal to transfer European prisoners to Port Blair. S. Wauchope, Commissioner of Police Calcutta to Rivers Thompson, Junior Secretary to the government of Bengal, 2 June 1860; J.C. Haughton, Superintendent Port Blair, to W. Grey, Secretary to the government of India, 13 June 1860.

13 IOR P/206/62 India (Judicial) 6 January 1860: Superintendent J.C. Haughton to W. Grey, Secretary to the government of India, 13 November 1859.

14 IOR P/145/38 Bengal (Jails) March 1861: S. Wauchope, Commissioner of Police Calcutta, to Rivers Thompson, Junior Secretary to the government of Bengal, 22 February 1861, enc. petition of M.R. Crawford, 18 February 1861, petition of Thomas Burk, 16 February 1861; TNSA Madras (Judicial) 4 March 1863: J. Rohde, Inspector-General of jails Madras, to A.J. Arbuthnot, Chief Secretary to the government of Madras, 21 November 1862.

15 TNSA Madras (Judicial) 4 March 1863, nos 6–11: Rohde to Arbuthnot, 21 November 1862.

16 IOR P/146/53 Bengal (Jails) November 1862: J. King, Governor Calcutta Jail, to David Cowie, Sheriff of Calcutta, 14 August 1862.

17 IOR P/146/53 Bengal (Jails) October 1862: A. Payne, officiating Inspector-General of jails, to J. Geoghegan, Under-Secretary to the government of Bengal, 9 September 1862; memorandum of A. Payne, 29 September 1862.

18 IOR P/146/50 Bengal (Jails) May 1862: J. King, Governor of Calcutta Jail, to David Cowie, Sheriff of Calcutta, 1 May 1862, enc. petition of John Peterson, an American under sentence of penal servitude for six years, at present detained in Calcutta Jail, 2 May 1862; roll of an American (coloured) convict, 1 May 1862.

19 TNSA Madras (Judicial) 24 June 1863: J. Rohde, Inspector-General of jails Madras, to A.J. Arbuthnot, Chief Secretary to the government of Madras, 25 May 1863; Arbuthnot to E.C. Bayley, Secretary to the government of India, 8 October 1863.

20 TNSA Madras (Judicial) 24 June 1863: W.S. Nesbitt, in charge of European prison Ootacamund, to Rohde, 25 April 1863, enc. List of prisoners undergoing penal servitude in the Ootacamund European prison who are considered eligible for employment in Port Blair; TNSA Madras (Judicial) 15 July 1864, nos 185–6: E.C. Bayley, Chief Secretary to the government of India, to A.J. Arbuthnot, Chief Secretary to the government of Madras; TNSA Madras (Judicial) 8 December 1864, 119–21: J. Rohde, Inspector-General of jails, to A.J. Arbuthnot, Chief Secretary to the government of Madras, 24 November and 2 December 1864, enc. petition of Thomas Nolan, 26 October 1864; TNSA Madras (Judicial) 16 January 1866: Bayley to Superintendent Barnett Ford, 16 January 1866.

21 TNSA Madras (Judicial) 24 June 1863: J. Rohde, Inspector-General of jails Madras, to A.J. Arbuthnot, Chief Secretary to the government of Madras, 25 May 1863; Arbuthnot to E.C. Bayley, secretary to the government of India, 8 October 1863.

22 UK Parliamentary Papers 53.269: Statement Exhibiting the Moral and Material Progress and Condition of India During the Year 1868–69 (London, 1870), p. 65.

23 TNSA Madras (Judicial) 16 January 1866: A.J. Arbuthnot, Chief Secretary to the government of Madras, to Superintendent Barnett Ford, 31 January 1866; IOR P/434/8 India (Public) 11 December 1867: Inspection report by Major H.N. Davies, Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, enc. Nominal roll showing the number of European, Eurasian, and Native convicts receiving upwards of Rs. 8 a month, on the 23rd April, at the several settlements of Port Blair; List of European and Eurasian prisoners on the various stations of the settlement and their employment.

24 IOR P/434/8 India (Public) 11 December 1867: Inspection report by Major H.N. Davies, Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, enc. Nominal roll showing the number of European, Eurasian, and Native convicts receiving upwards of Rs. 8 a month, on the 23rd April, at the several settlements of Port Blair.

25 IOR P/146/52 Bengal (Jails) September 1862: Extract from a demi-official letter from the Superintendent of Port Blair to E.C. Bayley, Secretary to the government of India, 1 August 1862.

26 NAI Home (Port Blair) October 1873, nos 49–59: Census of the Andaman Islands, December 1871. The Andaman census was not included in the published Indian census “as not being strictly within Indian limits”. See Waterfield, Henry, Memorandum on the Census of British India 1871–72 (London, 1875), p. 6 . On indigenous people in the Islands, see Pandya, Vishvajit, In the Forest: Visual and Material Worlds of Andamanese History, 1858–2006 (Lanham MD, 2009).

27 IOR P/434/8 India (Public) 11 December 1867: Inspection report by Major H.N. Davies, Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, p. 18.

28 Ibid., enc. Memorandum showing the number of scholars, names and ages, who attended the Port Blair school from January 1867, up to the present date. We know nothing about the child’s mother.

29 NAI Home (Port Blair) 20 May 1871, nos 21–2: Murder by James Devine, a licenced convict.

30 The East India Company was a trading company that governed large areas of subcontinental India before 1857, including with regard to law and punishment.

31 On Eurasian convicts in South East Asia, and a biography of an African convict called George Morgan transported from India to Burma and ultimately Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), see Anderson, Subaltern Lives, ch. 3.

32 Andaman and Nicobar Administration Archives, Port Blair (A&N Archives): Memorandum Relative to the Deputation of the Anglo-Indian and Domiciled Community of India and Burma to the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for India, 30 July 1925.

33 Temple, R.C., Census of India, 1901, Volume III: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Calcutta, 1903), p. 289 .

34 R.F. Lowis, Census of India, 1921, Volume II: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Table XVI: European and Allied Races and Anglo-Indians by Race and Age (Calcutta, 1923), p. 73.

35 N. Francis Xavier, “A House Named Blessington”, Andaman Sheekha, 6 March 2011; author’s interview with Eileen Arnell, 27 June 2011.

36 Compare the important insights of Elizabeth Buettner, “Problematic Spaces, Problematic Races: Defining ‘Europeans’ in Late Colonial India”, Women’s History Review, 9:2 (2000), pp. 277278 .

37 It is likely that James had a brother in the Andamans; 1867 records also record the presence of one J. Whitby, a clerk in the convict record department, as well as James Whitby, who was a sergeant in the commissariat department. Two children, Thomas Whitby and Eleanor Whitby, were at Port Blair School. See IOR P/434/8 India (Public) 11 December 1867, 89–97: Inspection Report by Major H.N. Davies, B.S.C., Secretary to the Chief Commissioner of British Burma, Appendices: Nominal return of officers; Memorandum showing the number of Scholars, names and ages, who attended the Port Blair School from January 1867, up to the present date.

38 IOR P/11048 Home (Port Blair) January 1921, nos 49–52 part B: A.J. Boomgardt, transfer from the public works department to the jailor establishment of Port Blair.

39 IOR Mss Eur F180: memoirs of N.K. Paterson, n.d.; Gill Chalabi’s family papers: Noel Paterson, “Experiences of a District Officer 1929–1947”, transcribed from audio, November 2004. I thank Selma Chalabi for sharing copies of the transcripts with me.

40 IOR Mss Eur F180: memoirs of N.K. Paterson, n.d.

41 Gill Chalabi’s family papers: Noel Paterson, “Experiences of a District Officer 1929–1947”.

42 IOR P/10841 Home (Port Blair) January 1920.

43 Wynne, Martin (ed.), On Honourable Terms: The Memoirs of Some Indian Police Officers, 1915–1948 (London, 1985), p. 160 ; IOR P/11048 Home (Port Blair) July 1921, nos 4–10 part A: Chief Commissioner H.C. Beadon to Secretary to the government of India, 30 April 1921.

44 IOR Mss Eur F209: Frances Stewart Robinson, “The Forgotten Islands”, p. 32.

45 Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge: M.L. Ferrar papers, M.L. Ferrar to his mother, 4 June 1929.

46 See also Buettner, “Problematic Spaces, Problematic Races”, pp. 277–278.

47 “Kala Pani: A Forgotten History”, BBC Radio 4, 21 April 2010.

48 Sherman, “From Hell to Paradise?”. For a discussion of development in the 1920s, under the stewardship of Chief Commissioner M.L. Ferrar, see Anderson et al., New Histories of the Andaman Islands, pp. 29–61.

49 Anderson et al., New Histories of the Andaman Islands, pp. 47–49.

50 “The Colonisation Scheme: Pioneers leave Calcutta”, The Times of India, 27 November 1923.

51 “Anglo-Indian Colony: Possibilities in Andamans”, The Times of India, 5 April 1924. IOR MSS Eur F531/46 Hawes papers: “Report from A.E. Young, 28 January 1926”, The Anglo-Indian, 19:3 (1926), pp. 13–14. See also Anthony, Frank, Britain’s Betrayal in India: The Story of the Anglo Indian Community (Bombay, 1969), pp. vi, 91, 9799, 114 .

52 Personal Collection of Keith Wilson (PCKW): “Grant of Land” certificate, 15 August 1932.

53 PCKW: D.M. Deakes to the Secretary to the government of India, Home Department, 25 April 1946; Board of Trade, extended Far Eastern private chattels scheme (war damage), application of Mrs Millicent Dorothy Deakes, undated (1950).

54 Mrs Milicent D. Deakes, “Isles of Peace and Happiness”, The Times of India, 12 March 1950.

55 Home Department Resolution, 27 February 1826, reproduced in Andaman and Nicobar Gazette: Extraordinary, 18 March 1926; “Future of the Andamans: Conversion to a Self-Supporting Community”, The Times of India, 1 March 1926.

56 Deakes, “Isles of Peace and Happiness”.

57 IOR P/9949 Home (Port Blair) April 1914 no. 10 proposed establishment of a settlement in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands for criminal tribes from India: Frederick Booth Tucker, special commissioner for India and Ceylon, Salvation Army, Simla, to Reginald Craddock, Delhi, 2 March 1914. See also Booth-Tucker, Frederick, Criminocurology or the Indian Crim, and What to Do With Him: Being a Review of the Work of The Salvation Army Amongst the Prisoners, Habituals and Criminal Tribes of India (Simla, 1916).

58 Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, London (SAIHC): IN/2/1: Papers from India, Northern Territory, 1891–1993: “A Model Convict Settlement: Life in the Andaman Islands”, n.d.; Bonington, M.C.C., Census of India, 1931, Volume II: The Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Calcutta, 1932), pp. 4143 ; Coutts, Frederick L., “I Had No Revolver”: Edwin Sheard (London, 1943); Sheard, Edwin H., Sergeant-Major in the Andamans: Kanhaiya Gariba (St Albans, 1957), pp. 1112 ; Sheard, Edwin H., “Reforming Robbers in the Andamans”, The Officers’ Review (November 1937), pp. 535540 . General accounts of Salvation Army rehabilitation include Tolen, Rachel J., “Colonizing and Transforming the Criminal Tribesman: The Salvation Army in British India”, American Ethnologist, 18:1 (1991), pp. 106125 .

59 SAIHC: IN/2/1: Brigadier A.T. Hughes, officer commanding, Burma, “Life Among Lifers, Being a Short Account of the Ferrar Gunj Colony Run by the Salvation Army for the Government of the United Provinces, India, Among Life-Sentence (Murderer) Convicts and their Families in the Andaman Islands”.

60 Report on the Administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Penal Settlement of Port Blair, 1 st December 1929 to 31 st March 1932 (Calcutta, 1932), p. 2. The report does not specify the reasons for their “unsuitability”.

61 Bonington, Census of India, 1931, Volume II, pp. 29–30; Report on the Administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands 1929–1932; F.A.M. Dass, The Andaman Islands (Bangalore, 1937), pp. 70–71.

62 Bonington, Census of India, 1931, Appendix I: The Bhantus (language, pp. 39–41).

63 Hughes, “Life Among Lifers”, p. 24. The Salvation Army called insincere converts “rice Christians”.

64 Anderson et al., New Histories of the Andaman Islands, pp. 29–61.

65 Report on the Administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Penal Settlement of Port Blair, 1 st April 1938 to 31 st March 1939 (New Delhi, 1940), p. 4.

66 A&N Jails Department accession no. 203 Future of the Bhantu settlement: B.L. Pandey’s note, 15 June 1945; N.K. Paterson’s note, 15 June 1945. See also Report on the Administration of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Penal Settlement of Port Blair, 1 st April 1937 to 31 st March 1938 (New Delhi, 1939), pp. 2–3.

* The research leading to these results received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP/2007–2013)/ERC Grant Agreement 312542. It also received support from the Economic and Social Research Council (award no. RES-000-22-3484). I thank Shabnum Tejani for inviting me to share an early version of this work at the history research seminar at SOAS, University of London, and the participants at that gathering for their insightful comments. I also thank Keith Wilson for allowing me access to his private papers on the Deakes family, and especially Eileen Arnell for her support for this research.

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