Hyderabad: Secunderabad has been in the news for all the wrong reason, especially the Cantonment area. The relationship between the civilian and the Local Military Authority has not always been the best, giving rise to a number of small groups hoping for some kind of compromise.
Pankaj Sethi’s talk, ‘The Story of Secunderabad’ at the Guruswamy Centre, was the first formal one at this hall. As China expert Mohan Guruswamy said it, it was meant to check the teething problems with lights and so on.
Sethi brought the burning topic to light towards the end of his one-and-a-half hour presentation, but it brought in a lot of sound bytes, including from Telangana state government adviser Papa Rao.
It is ironic that the local populace has to have this tussle with the military, because the birth of Secunderabad was because of the army or the Lashkar, which was housed in this new location. The army was located here because of the Treaty of Subsidiary Alliance of 1798, when the Nizam was an ally of the British. The salient feature of this treaty was that the British would place the troops here ostensibly for the protection of the Nizam who would pay for this protection.
The troops, 8,000 of them had to be housed and they were assigned this area on the northeast banks of the Hussainsagar.
Since Sikandar Jah, the third Nizam, was the ruler, the British said that they would name the place after him and thus was born Secunderabad in 1806 AD.
While the Army was stationed here in tents or encampments, the civilian section grew since somebody had to service the Army. There was a huge influx and the financial incentive then was that no duty needed to be paid for the goods bought in.
Sethi was passionate about his presentation and with pictorial details, thanks to the Raja Deen Dayal Archive, bolstered his talk with appropriate photos. “There was no permanent structure for the encampment for 50 years,” says Sethi.
Henry Russell, the British resident from 1810 to 1820, brought in more troops to fight the Marathas since the south had been captured by the British with the help of the Nizam. The Nizam once again had to provide the troops and Russell said he would train the new contingent that would be different from the Subsidiary Forces. They were housed in a different place, at Bolaram, at a 10-km distance. The Nizam did not have enough funds. He had already ceded Rayalaseema to the British, with this new encampment at Bolaram he had to cede Berar. The Bolarum encampment came with a 4-km perimeter and to keep the troops warned of any attack, a picket or advance guard (now recognised as Picket) was placed here.
A collective sign of recognition came when Sethi posted a picture of a cannon on a hillock, now recognised as Gunrock, and the picture of the Holy Trinity Church built in 1847. The information that the Bolarum Residency, the summer house of Nasiruddin Dowlah, is now Rashtrapati Nilayam, was also acknowledged.
Mention of Secunderabad Club elicited equal amounts of enthusiasm, when Sethi said that it came up in 1902 and was variously called the Secunderabad Pub, Garrison Club, Secunderabad Gymkhana. Since the “natives” were not allowed, according to Sethi, the Nizam Club came up to counter it but since this was in Hyderabad this factoid was not mentioned.
Ironically the Secunderabad Club building was the hunting club house of Salar Jung I and there was a beautiful pictorial representation of a lake near the club with a single palm tree atop a hillock, suitably then called as One Tree Hill, now known as the Jubilee Bus Stand.
The civilian areas in Secunderabad grew and became a major commercial area, with well-recognised places like James Street, named after the Resident James Kirkpatrick, Regimental Bazaar which ran till Alexandra Road now known as Sarojini Devi Road which intersected with the Oxford Street or Sardar Patel Road. Major brands were available on these roads those days.
Sethi spoke of how Secunderabad became cosmopolitan thanks to the influx of people from various places. Since the ‘natives’ were not allowed into the Secunderabad Club, Varadaraja Mudaliar, a businessman, who was impressed with the Deccan Gymkhana, started the Deccan Club in Secunderabad. It was previously at the Wesley compound and then at Penderghast Road till it has become a landmark in Marredpally. Tland too given by Major Guruswamy.
The Victoria Grain Market was started in 1883 and a beautiful arch announces the name in three languages. According to Sethi this was inaugurated after Queen Victoria came to New Delhi for the Delhi Durbar, but apparently Queen Victoria never visited India. We now recognise this place as Raniganj (Queen’s market). The Clock Tower was built by Seth Laxminarayana Ramgopalpet on a park of 10 acres.
The Parsis who acted as bankers to the Nizam, were among the first to come to Secunderabad and they built the fire temple way back in 1850. There were Parsis, Mudaliars, Marwaris, Gujaratis and Muslims. Various languages were used here and Urdu never became the official language.
Sethi went on to talk about how Sikh village came about, thanks to the troops sent by Raja Ranjit Singh at the behest of the Nizam. Four Chavanis were formed and one of them is now known as Sikh Village. While the first church of St John the Baptist was built on Entrenchment Road in 1813, right opposite the venue of Saturday’s talk, how the Mahankali temple was built has an interesting tale. During the battle with the Marathas, the troops were in Ujjain and had prayed at the Mahankali temple there that if Hyderabad is freed of the plague they would build a temple. That is how the Ujjaini Mahankali temple came to be, a huge landmark of Secunderabad.
How transport changed lives
The face of Secunderabad changed at the end of the 19th century, as did other cities, thanks to transportation. “With the advent of railways, the landlocked town of Secunderabad was connected to the two major port cities of Bombay and Madras,” Pankaj Sethi said during his talk on Secunderabad. Technology played an important role since workshops came in to run the railways. The Secunderabad railway station was started in 1928.
While the railways brought about a major change in the lives of people road transport also was a game changer. The Nizam imported 26 buses from Scotland at the cost of `3 lakh. All the bus numbers had a ‘Z’ attached to them because he had dedicated them to his mother Zeherunissa Begum. Even now some buses ply with a ‘Z” on the number plate, said Sethi.
Automobiles revolutionised the way people travelled locally and the Bombay Cycle and Motors Agency in Secunderabad played a huge role. Because of all this, new roads had to be built and Kingsway was built and this decongested the traffic on James Street.
The Begumpet airport was inaugurated in 1937 and opened for commercial use in 1946.
The first census was taken in 1891 and Secunderabad accounted for 26 per cent of the population.
Mohan dedicates hall in dad’s name
The room allotted for Pankaj Sethi’s talk at the Guruswamy Centre was full, while the art gallery next door had beautiful old pictures depicting that era of Secunderabad, with maps, roads and photos.
“I welcome you to my home,” said Mohan Guruswamy, who has generously donated this space for public use. He will not charge anything. The cost will be borne by a trust that is to be formed. “This was the last house till it reached the Plassey Gate,” he says bemused by the name. “I wanted to do something for my father,” says Guruswamy and hence decided to give this 4,500 sq ft space for use for discussions.
“Secunderabad gets left behind, what with us being hemmed in by the Army on one side and the Hitec City on the other,” he added.
Sethi interested him because he had so much of information that one could write a book. That is how Green Sainikpuri and the FNECS got together to hold this down-the-memory-lane on Secunderabad.
Army, roads and a timeless conflict
The Hyderabad Army was merged with the British Indian Army in 1901 and Bolarum was merged with the Secunderabad Army unit. The distance of 10 km between the two encampments was a bit of a problem because there were 13 villages in between. In 1906, these 13 villages, called Mughlai villages, were added to Secunderabad.
These 13 villages are now creating a problem for the Army, the civilian administration and the state government. Advisor to the state government Papa Rao suggested that the government should take over these 13 villages, since they did not come under the purview of the Army or the Cantonment.
“The closure of the roads affected 15 lakh people and four out of the 18 GHMC areas were affected because of this,” says Sethi who represents the Federation of North Eastern Colonies of Secunderabad (FNECS) as a committee member.