By: Vanam Jwala Narasimha Rao
[The writer is CPRO to Telangana CM]
Interesting information recorded on 10th October 1926, by Sir William Barton, a former Resident in Hyderabad, about Secunderabad cantonment land, is available in India Office Library, London. It is evident from the report that, Government of India did not acquire any land from state Government or erstwhile Hyderabad Nizam Government for establishing Secunderabad Cantonment. The inference could be that the defense establishment at Secunderabad is in occupation of about 13000 (58 % of the 40.17 square kilometers) acres of state and private lands without a valid ownership right. Barton report emphasizes that there was no transfer of ownership of any part of the land to British Government by the Nizam.
There is no land in Secunderabad which absolutely belongs to the Government of India and the Military authorities are entitled to exercise control only over so much of the land within the outer boundary line as has been actually assigned for Military purposes. Land actually in military occupation like barracks and parade grounds were handed over only for Military purposes and it reverts to the Nizam’s Government when no longer required by the military authorities. The title to the land would, on relinquishment, revert to the Nizam’s Government.
Secunderabad, the twin city of Hyderabad is named after Sikandar Jah, the third Nizam of the Asaf Jahi dynasty. The city was formed in 1806, after the order was signed by the Nizam allotting the land north of Hussein Sagar to set up the British Cantonment. It was founded as a British cantonment after the Nizam Asaf Jah II was defeated at the hands of the British East India Company and was forced to sign the Treaty of Subsidiary Alliance in the year 1798. Subsequently, various new markets such as Regimental Bazaar and General Bazaar were created. Secunderabad Railway Station one of the largest in India was established in 1874. The King Edward Memorial Hospital, now known as Gandhi Hospital was established in 1851. Residency House, now known as the Rashtrapati Nilayam, the official retreat of the President of India was constructed in 1860. Being one of the largest cantonments in India, Secunderabad has a large presence of army and air force personnel. Area around Secunderabad changed hands between various rulers and by the 18th century, the area was part of Nizam’s Hyderabad.
Noted author and a former bureaucrat in his book “Lashkar”(meaning army camp) commented that British cantonments across India evolved as enduring symbols of the imperial power. The very location of these cantonments, some of which were virtually mini-fortresses, was often cited as a reflection of social separation of the British from the natives. Secunderabad Cantonment has been no different according to Narendra Luther. Even after independence the same style is continued. In course of time, the camp expanded to emerge as the first cantonment to provide a settled home for the British army in the South. The houses built for officers, Luther recounts, were typified by the one called “The Retreat”, in which Winston Churchill stayed as second lieutenant in 1896. The house is still in intact and accommodates a colonel.
Secunderabad Municipality was first formed in 1945. By the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation Act 1955, Secunderabad Municipal Corporation was merged with Hyderabad Corporation to form a single Municipal Corporation in the year 1960. Today Secunderabad is part of the Hyderabad district. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) established in 2007 is responsible for the administration and infrastructure of Secunderabad. Post-Independence, the Secunderabad Cantonment Board came under the jurisdiction of the Indian Armed forces. Today large parts of Secunderabad and some parts of Hyderabad, where defense installations are located come under the purview of Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB). The infrastructure management and civic administration in the cantonment are handled by the SCB, which comes under the purview of the union Defense Ministry.
Consequent to the treaty of 1768 the British Government undertook to provide Nizam with two battalions and Sepoys. Later a Resident was appointed at Hyderabad and year after year the battalions were increased which reached to eight and by 1806 British Government resolved to station the troops at Hyderabad. During the year 1903 the Bolaram cantonment was abolished and merged with the Cantonment of Secunderabad and the land held by it was occupied by the Military authorities free of cost. There was no assignment of land by the Nizam to the Military authorities. The large area of land had been given to British Army at different times for the use of the Military authorities, starting from 1806. However there was no transfer of ownership of the lands to the Government of India (British Government) by the Nizam Government. The 13 Mughlai villages namely, Chinna Thokatta, Pedda Thokatta , Sitharampur, Bowinpally, Balamrai, Kakaguda, Sikh Village, Alwal, Marredpally, Rasoolpura, Busareddyguda, Bolarum, Trimulgherri, and Lalapet were also not the military property. There was at no time any definite assignment of the land and land was taken up as required by the Military authorities. All this information is available in the report of William Barton.
The lands were temporarily requisitioned by the British Army from the Nizam Government to meet the exigencies of Second World War and for six months thereafter. A resolution of Secunderabad Cantonment Board meeting held on 21st June 1968, to which all the Defense Authorities and Officers of the Secunderabad Sub-Area were Signatories, ascertain that the Defense Authorities never owned any land in Secunderabad Cantonment and that whatever land that was requisitioned temporarily for military purposes was restored to Nizam’s Government on First December 1945, as it was no longer required for military purposes. The resolution further noted that, the Cantonment of Secunderabad, in erstwhile domain of Nizam cannot be equated with the rest of the Cantonments as the laws applicable in the Secunderabad Cantonment were the laws prevailing in the Jagirs and Government of Nizam and not the British Indian laws. Starting from 1806, land was taken by the military authorities from the Nizam’s Government, as and when needed by them for cantoning of the troops with a condition that they need to be restored to the Nizam’s Government when no longer required for military purposes. The case of Secunderabad Town, which formerly formed part of this cantonment, was restored to the Nizam’s Government.
In Ameer-un-nissa Begum V. Mahboob Begum, the Supreme Court while referring to the nature of sovereign function exercised by the Nizam of Hyderabad observed that “prior to integration of Hyderabad State with the Indian Union and the coming into force of the Indian Constitution, the Nizam of Hyderabad enjoyed uncontrolled sovereign powers. He was the supreme legislature, the supreme judiciary and the supreme head of the executive, and there were no constitutional limitations upon his authority to act in any of these capacities. The Firmans were expressions of the sovereign will of the Nizam and they were binding in the same way as any other law; nay, they would override all other laws which were in conflict with them. So long as a particular Firman held the field, that alone would govern or regulate the rights of the parties concerned, though it could be annulled or modified by a later Firman at any time that the Nizam willed.
After the integration of Hyderabad in the Indian Union, the land said to have been given for military purposes by Nizam and later restored to the Nizam Government as it was no longer required for military purposes, automatically becomes the state government land with absolute powers. Any part of the land in the cantonment area either in Secunderabad or in Hyderabad shall belong to Telangana State Government and it has an absolute right to make use of it as it deems fit. The military authorities or to that matter the Government of India’s Defense Ministry should not have any objection for this.