Could anybody believe that there is a cellular jail in Hyderabad akin to the Kalapani of Andamans?
A structure which ranks among the rare buildings in the country is so close, yet out of bounds for people of Hyderabad. The military prison built in 1858 for erring British soldiers is just 100 feet away from the Tirumalagiri X Roads towards Sainikpuri. Even those who commute on the road daily may not be aware of its importance. The building now belongs to the Indian military and it is difficult to get permission to visit it.
It is said Kalapani, the notorious cellular jail on the Andaman Island, constructed nearly 50 years later, was modelled on the Tirumalagiri military prison. The Gothic structure with four arms stretching in cardinal directions looks like a cross from above. The ground floor has 40 cells, while the first floor has 35. Covering 2,260 square yards, its construction cost was Rs 4.71 lakh.
While the Andaman jail was used for Indians, convicted British soldiers were housed in the Tirumalagiri prison where each cell has three strong iron doors with arrangements to chain prisoners to the walls inside. Each cell has a window which allows the prisoner to see only what is directly in front of him, while someone from outside can view the whole cell through it. It is said that this is a unique feature of cellular jails.
Above the cells is the hanging chamber and a small prayer hall. To offset any human or mechanical error while implementing the death penalty, it is so arranged that the body, after loosening the hanging rope, falls on sharp irons at the bottom of a 30-foot-deep well.
Records show that nearly 500 death penalties were executed at the prison. Several soldiers were imprisoned here during World War II. After the Operation Bluestar in Punjab, some Indian soldiers were also kept in this prison, which has been in disuse since 1994.
It is now in the control of the 125 Infantry Battalion of the Territorial Army.
From the top of the jail building, the surroundings appear like a forest with big trees. It is a relief to know that the city is not a concrete jungle altogether....