Casting light on a dark part of Britain's history in India





When I listened to my grandfather's stories of his time as governor of the Andaman Islands, it was the first I had heard of the jail where India's most prominent political prisoners suffered at the hands of their British colonial rulers.

It was strange, listening to the voice of my grandfather telling his life story after he had died.

But this was how I came to discover the part he played in Britain's dark history on a group of tropical islands located in the Bay of Bengal.

After the first war of independence in India in 1856, the Andaman Islands were identified as an ideal place for British colonial rulers to get rid of unsavoury elements.

Where better to put people you no longer want around but can't kill, than on some distant islands 1,000km away from the Indian coast?

I learned that my grandfather, Noel Kennedy Paterson - NKP as he was affectionately known - was linked to this far-flung place a few years after his death, when my mother told me about a box of cassette tapes featuring his voice.

It was his last three tapes that caught my attention.

Labelled Andaman Islands 1, 2 and 3, I bypassed all the others and immediately got caught up in the story of this distant outpost of Britain's Empire....

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