(Last Updated on : 31/01/2009)
Ullaskar Dutt, a convict in the Alipore Bomb Case was a fun-loving fellow, who was praised for his optimistic vision by the trial judge also. He was an intellectual and often made his companions forget their desolation by regaling jokes and lighter verses. He too fell victim to the excruciating torture that led to his insanity. On 10th June 1912, he was chained and suspended in his cell for a week. On the very first day he was found hanging handcuffed with acute fever and signs of insanity. His heartrending cries filled the whole atmosphere.
The officiating superintendent sent Dutt to the mental hospital in the Andamans and then to the Madras Lunatic Asylum in January 1913, where he stayed for twelve years. He regained normalcy and lived to pen down his memoirs revealing the agonising life in the Cellular Jail. An account of his life in Cellular jail is also available in the books written by Savarkar and Barin Ghose. According to him, he was yoked to the oil-mill similar to those they had seen in India for crushing oil from coconut and sesame. In the Andaman Jail, men were yoked to the handle of the turning wheel instead of bullocks, and it was enforced upon them to yield by their hard day's work 30 lbs. of coconut oil. Three prisoners used to be yoked to the handle of one mill. And they had to work unremittingly from morning to evening with a brief interval for their bath and morning meal. The interval actually given to them came to no more than a few minutes. They were made to run round the oil-mill unlike the beast, which could plod on slowly. If any one of them was found to relax his pace, the jamadar was in attendance to belabor him with his big stick. If that bludgeoning did not hasten the pace, there was another way of compelling him to do so. He was tied hand and foot to the handle of the turning wheel and others were ordered to run at full speed. Then the poor man was dragged along the ground like a man tied to the chariot wheel. His body would get bruised, his head would get knocked on the floor.
In Dutt's words, "When I came back in my cell in the evening, I found myself completely washed out by the process. I was not sure that I would be alive the following morning to continue that harrowing work. Yet I remained alive and did the work all right during the day…" All the prisoners working with Ullaskar were, however, released from it in six months and sent to work outside. Other batches came in, worked on it for the fixed period and were sent out like their predecessors. But Dutt himself and other political prisoners were tied down to the same sweating toil. For years together it went on like this without respite and without change of work.
At last, a day came when Dutt was ordered abroad. But the change was no better than from the 'frying pan into the fire'. For, he was sent to work in a district in a factory of bricks. He had to run the whole day, to and fro, carrying bricks that were wet and not baked yet in fire. This work was exhausting enough for an ordinary labourer. And Ullaskar was given a daily quantity of milk as a motivator to it. But the poor prisoner hardly got that milk to drink when the petty officer or the tindal would pounce upon his plate and empty it down his own throat. His labour was changed to a chore that was not entitled to milk. Later on, Dutt was awarded the hardest work to do on the settlement. He had to climb up a steep ascent, draw two buckets of water out of a well, tie them at both ends of a pole and carry the buckets with the pole on his shoulders to the bungalow of an officer. The weight of the buckets and water came to a maund (a measuring unit in India); the ascent to the hill was steep and every moment there was the danger of his foot slipping on it, and falling down into the valley below. The work had to be done for the whole day, going up and down the steep climb. Dutt used to be dog tired at the end of the day though he could carry it on for many days.
Entirely disgusted with his job, Ullaskar refused to do it any longer. A charge of disobedience and of evading work was framed against him. The magistrate tried his best to persuade him, to make rest for a few days in the hospital and begin again, but Dutt had made up his mind against it. It was at this instance that he decided not to enslave his body to them. And for such an act, Dutt was given three months' additional sentence of hard labour, and was sent back to be locked up again in his cell.
Ullaskar recollected subsequently the cruel treatment doled out to him by the jail authorities in the name of giving him 'medical treatment' and wrote: "Even in this semi-conscious state of mind and under severe pain of the body, I could clearly feel that the medical superintendent had played his electric battery upon me, the shocks of which was impossible for me to stand. The electric current went through my whole body like the force of lightning. Every nerve, fibre and muscle in it seemed to be torn by it. The demon seemed to possess it. And I uttered words such as had never passed my lips before. I roared as I had never done before, and suddenly I relapsed into unconsciousness. I was in this state of unconsciousness for three continuous days and nights. And my friends told me about it when I awoke from it". The cries of Ullaskar, filled with pain, had cast a pall of gloom among the political prisoners and pained them beyond description. That day the real nature of a prison revealed itself to the inmates. There was no hope for any one to keep body and soul together and return to their country. Some would die by hanging, others would die by going mad.
Once again, as in the past, instead of realizing the extent to which the jail authorities were torturing the political prisoners and the kind of damage it was causing to their mind and bodies, rather than conceding the real causes leading to the insanity of Ullaskar, Barrie still asserted that Ullaskar was actually not mad.