Hyderabad

Lockdown brings back memories of Hyderabad’s curfew era

Shops shuttered and movement of people restricted following a curfew-like situation in Old City.

Shops shuttered and movement of people restricted following a curfew-like situation in Old City.   | Photo Credit: File photo

Frequent communal tension in the ’70s and ’80s meant bouts of forced confinement for the citizens

For many citizens of Hyderabad, the month-long lockdown is a grim reminder of another era of forced confinement. No stranger to communal and political rioting, Hyderabad has seen long periods of enforced lockup known as curfew with gun-toting soldiers roaming the streets.

“Curfew used to be imposed for 24 or 48 hours and then relaxed for a few hours. It used to get extended only if there was more violence. This is different as the first announcement was for more than 15 days,” says Syed Mazher Ali Ahmed, who was confined to home during the 1969 agitation for separate Telangana.

“We used to live in Narayanaguda which was the hub of activity of Telangana Praja Samithi. It was a period of great uncertainty and there was a lot of violence. Former education minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s son Prabhakar Rao was my classmate but even he didn’t know the fate of exams,” says Mr. Mazher, recalling the time.

“Sure, as kids we loved that year because we had no school and we were automatically promoted to the next year without exams,” says John Siddham, who now lives in Melbourne. But life certainly wasn’t fun. “I used to go with my dad to Amruth Store in Punjagutta for kerosene, vegetables and pulses. It used to be chaos with people buying whatever there was; a lot of the stuff used to be in a half-perished state,” remembers Mr. Siddham.

Hyderabad had bouts of curfew as communal conflagrations were frequent. “Ganesh puja inevitably meant violence and curfew in the ’70s and well into the ’80s. But before that, curfew meant struggle for milk, groceries, vegetables and a fear,” says Anoop Vikram who grew up in Medhipatnam area in a joint family.

“Curfew was a serious business with armed soldiers ready to shoot at sight. An hour’s break announced on radio or newspaper would mean an hour’s break. Sometimes we had to rush to Panjagutta to get vegetables and groceries and return within an hour,” recalls Mr. Vikram.

“Hyderabad had independent houses, large open spaces and people lived in joint families, so spending time was not such a big problem but there was fear in the air which is not there now,” says Mr. Mazher.

“Staring at walls. Talking to yourself or hitting the cricket ball against the wall were some pastimes. People read books or listened to music as the AIR was the only source of entertainment. We got our news on radio,” adds Mr. Vikram.

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Printable version | Jun 5, 2020 4:29:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/lockdown-brings-back-memories-of-hyderabads-curfew-era/article31457749.ece

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