There’s a lot in a name: Remembering a kotwal

By: Sajjad Shahid


“What is in a name”, the bard of Avon famously quipped four centuries ago and we are still contemplating on the right answer to this seemingly simple query. Unfortunately, for Hyderabad and its denizens, post independence it has more often been “deny thy father, refuse thy name” as survival under the changed regime required alienation from all things identifiable with the old order. As a result aspects related to heritage, culture and the glorious past were best kept firmly locked up in memory.

It was thus a pleasant surprise to note that a true-blue Hyderabadi is to be acknowledged by the present day rulers for his services to the city and its populace in times gone by. The welcome proposal of naming the Andhra Pradesh Police Academy (APPA) after a stalwart of the Nizam’s administration, Raja Bahadur Venkatrama Reddy, will hopefully be a first towards removing the marked bias against old Hyderabad and its icons by successive governments of Andhra Pradesh.

All earlier recognition afforded to eminent personalities of Hyderabad has been restricted to just those linked in some way to the Indian National Congress. Even in those cases the illustrious personalities often played second fiddle to the in-exhaustible list of the Nehru-Gandhi family members before being considered for the honour. The limits to which groveling Congressmen can fall are amply evident in the fact that almost all city parks have been named after their ilk. The process which started with the Jawaharlal Nehru Zoological Park went full circle through Indira Park and Feroz Gandhi Park (the absolute limit of sycophancy!) before culminating in the Chacha Nehru Park at Masaiba Tank.

Along the way ‘stalwarts’ of Andhra Pradesh like Sanjeevaiah, Brahmananda Reddy and Vegal Rao were also suitably recognized with their very own green spaces, but never were the legendary personalities of old Hyderabad considered for such recognition. Come to think of it, quite a few of the christenings gave rise to doubts as to whether they were sincere efforts at commemorating a late lamented leader or the tongue-in-cheek satire of some disgusted administrator who was forced to accept the dictates of overbearing netas; consider the case of the Marri Chenna Reddy Institute for instance, it is touted as a centre for ‘good governance’!

Raja Bahadur Venkatram Reddy (1869-1954), was born at Rayanpet, a village in the Wanparthy Samasthan of the erstwhile Hyderabad state. His father held a minor fief in the Gadwal Samasthan and had married a niece of Raja Rameshwar Rao I of Wanparthy. Having lost his parents in infancy, he was placed under the guardianship of an uncle, Captain William Wahab, who was then serving as superintendent of police at Raichur. When Wahab died, his successor Nazar Mohammed Khan took over as guardian and between them these two upstanding officers seem to have left a lasting impression on Venkatram Reddy who chose to follow in their footsteps joining government service in the capacity of a court inspector when still in his teens.

Making up for his diminutive physique with extraordinary zeal and dedication to service, the youngster soon found a mentor in A C Hankin, the first director general of police of Hyderabad state under whom he served for almost 22 years, rising to the rank of DSP in charge of Atraf-e Balda or the city suburbs. It is while he was serving in this post that his services were requisitioned for the city police by the then Kotwal or commissioner of the metropolitan constabulary, Nawab Imad Jung Bahadur, whom he served as first assistant. He succeeded to the post following the Nawab’s death in harness in 1920 and remained at the helm for 14 long years until his eventual retirement in 1934 at the age of 65, ten years past the then official age of retirement for Hyderabadi civil servants.

During his tenure as Kotwal-e Balda, Venkatrama Reddy built up on his reputation as a just and honorable officer, kind to the populace, always helpful to the needy, yet stern in putting down any dissent or disturbance against the state and monarchy. His exemplary tact in diffusing the gravest of crises as in the case of the attack on the Residency Court and the firmness with which he contained the non-cooperation and khilafat movements, earned him the gratitude of his monarch who responded with conferring on him the title of Raja Bahadur.

After his retirement Raja Bahadur served his sovereign in administering the Sarf-e Khas or private estate. His tenure as Kotwal remains unparalleled to date in terms of maintaining law and order without the undue use of harsh measures in enforcement; a lesson to be learnt by the present day constabulary which has alienated itself from the masses.

It is encouraging to note that the administration has finally woken up to the glaring lapses in recognizing the services of the original Hyderabadis to the state and its people. [Times of India]

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