The President of India Sri K. R. Naraynan in his speech at the Andaman Cellular Jail in the 50th year of our nation's independence paid glowing and moving tributes to the Andaman freedom fighters. Nobody, especially the present generation can imagine the hardships, the torture and the ultimate sacrifices our freedom fighters have paid behind the walls of this jail. If we can transmit to the new generation of Indians, at least a little bit of their patriotism, their flaming nationalism, their courage, their capacity for sacrifice, then we would have done something significant today.

It is for the government and the people of India to see that the Nation follows through in deeds what the President expressed in words.

It is important to realise that these revolutionary freedom fighters have not been given the honour and respect due to them, in keeping with their sacrifices. It is the government's moral responsibility to see that their issues and outstanding tasks are taken up.

They and their families need to be designated as National Families. So that everyone in the country knows about them and they have pride of place at all national functions.

Artists and film stars are nominated to the Rajya Sabha almost as a matter of routine, yet the government has never invited a representative of the Ex-Andaman Freedom Fighters for this honour.

The Cellular Jail was saved from demolition and yet it remains far from being a National Memorial worthy of its name. It is still thought of, by those who don't know as a cavern of cells. It has still not taken the full shape and form as they hoped the government would bring it to. There is a long list of outstanding tasks that need to be done to raise it's value and stature as a Memorial. It needs to have a world class library stocked with books of freedom struggles from around the world and a research centre that plays host to serious scholars from the mainland and the rest of the world.

The struggles and sacrifices of the Ex-Andaman freedom fighters needs to be properly brought into the history of the freedom struggle. A well researched and unbiased history still has to be written of all the freedom movements, whose freedom fighters were sent to the Andamans. This responsibility falls on the new generation to take up this task and see that it finally gets done.

Of the original 384 Andaman freedom fighters, that were repatriated back to the mainland, today only 28 survive. They are in the twilight years of their lives. All of them are ailing and in poor health. They still stand nameless and faceless in queues for hours at hospitals for treatment. They should be accorded immediate medical facilities at government and private hospitals, without any encumbrances and bureaucratic formalities.

All civilised societies are judged by how they honour those that gave their lives so that the rest of us could be free. Let us then take up these tasks and show that we are truly grateful for all that they did.

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