Drifting Apart

  • RIFT WIDENING BETWEEN CIVIL SOCIETY AND ARMY
  • TWIN CITIES HOUSING LARGEST ARMY BASE IN INDIA
  • MINOR IRRITANTS HAD A TELLING EFFECT ON RELATIONS
  • TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS BY ARMY ANNOYING ROAD USERS
  • MORNING WALKERS DISALLOWED INTO PARADE GROUNDS  
  • KILLING OF SHAIK TURNS OUT TO BE THE LAST STRAW

(C B RAO)

Mehdipatnam_Garrison_121014 copyHyderabad, October 12: Are the army and the civil society drifting apart in the city? The gap between the two is widening. It has taken on an edge with the death of a boy with burn injuries suffered inside Mehdipatnam Garrison in Hyderabad. The incident triggered widespread protests in the city.

mustafa

Shaik Mustafuddin

Shaik Mustafuddin, a ten year old boy, had been living in the garrison area with his parents for quite some time. His parents allege that Shaik was set ablaze by two army personnel after dousing him with kerosene. As the protesters mounted pressure, police booked a murder case against unknown army personnel.

The army had come out with a strong denial sating that it had nothing to with the boy’s death. As a way out, the city police has constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the incident. The cooperation of Army is all the more important in the case to get a clean chit for its personnel.

Otherwise it is going to be a grim reminder of similar episode that rocked Chennai in July 2011. A 13 year old boy Dilshan fell to the bullet of a retired army engineer for trespassing into army residential quarters to pluck almonds in the Tamil Nadu capital. The retired army engineer had later confessed to have shot the boy dead with his unlicensed gun.

In the process of warding off encroachments on land allotted to it, army has become the enemy of many greedy grabbers. Even in the surroundings of Mehdipatnam, the prime areas it held are facing the menace of encroachments. At times the army officials found themselves at logger heads with slum dweller too.

The Secunderabad Cantonment Board is spread over 40.17 square kilometers. Some 58.06 per cent of it is under the active occupation of the Army while 27.48 per cent is of the civilian public. Huge townships have come up in the midst of defence establishments that would permit no public passages nearby.

Mehdipatnam_GarrisonThe civilian public living in the limits of Secunderabad Cantonment Board and its vicinity have already been in protest mode ever since the Army decided to impose traffic restrictions on private vehicles in the cantonment area.

Dr Nagarjuna, a government doctor residing in Sainikpuri sought to drop his daughter at Sunderabad railway station in the early hours of the day sometime last week. But he was stopped at the AOC gate because of the restrictions.   Moves are afoot to ban the public vehicles on this stretch of the road from January 2015.

Morning walkers in the parade ground were also disallowed by the cantonment officials on Thursday. Minor irritants like this had a telling effect on the relations between the army and the civilian public. Shaik’s death seems to be the proverbial last straw.

Large parts of Secunderabad and some parts of the Hyderabad had come under the jurisdiction of the Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB) due to the large military presence. It is existing right from the days of the British. The infrastructure management and civic administration in the cantonment handled by the SCB, which comes under the purview of the union Defence Ministry of the Government of India.

As per the Cantonment Act, 2006, Secunderabad is a Class-I cantonment in terms of geographical area and population, Secunderabad is the largest of all the 62 cantonments and is also one of the largest in the world. Mutual needs have to be honoured by both the army as well as the civilian public.

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