This week’s postcard is of the military prison at Trimgherry:This prison was constructed in the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny in Secunderabad. The following, highly detailed description of the gaol draws heavily on an article published by the ‘Hans India’:
The Military Reformatory Trimulgherry Gaol was built in 1858 spread over 5 acres at a cost of Rs 4,71,202. The building has a central watchtower:The entire building structure and its four wings were covered in 360 degrees–facing 0 and 360 degrees is Lal Bazaar, 90 degrees is Moulali, 180 degrees is West Marredpally and 270 degrees is Bowenapally.
Lightening absorbers were laid on the top of the building and to all the wings to prevent shock and damage to the building. On the third floor of the tower is the gallows room where the prisoners were hanged. The prisoners who were sentenced by hanging were offered a choice of last lunch and were made to pray in a hall according to their faith and to ascend the 36 narrow wooden steps leading the gallows. The dead bodies were later buried in the cemetery within the prison premises. There is a separate cemetery for the British officers and soldiers who died in normal circumstances by diseases and aging. Records also reveal that nearly 500 prisoners were executed at the prison.
From the central tower, four wings branch out in four different directions and house a total of 75 cells– 40 on the ground floor and 35 on the first floor. The verandas of the building are adorned with Gothic arches whilst the rooms are approached through a flight of steps from the central tower.Each wing has two rows of cells with each cell facing the rear of the other, so that the prisoners in no way could see or communicate with each other. Each has a solitary ventilator at a great height above the ground, each cell has three strong iron door and the cells have an arrangement in which particularly difficult prisoners could be chained to the walls. Each cell has a small window type hole which would allow the prisoner to see only what is directly in front of him. However, if one were to peep inside the cell from outside, one would get a full view of entire cell to enable the authorities to observe the prisoner. The construction and the design of the gaol was made in such a way that any time in the day, from dawn to dusk, the sunlight never falls on any cell, which ensures dim lighting.
The whole building is fortified by a towering perimeter wall with medieval gateways, and the entire gaol was protected by a wide and deep canal filled with water with large number of crocodiles moving around:Any prisoner who succeeded in escaping the gaol walls had to pass through the canal and would have fallen prey to the crocodiles. The prisoners were so secluded from any contact with the outside world that if they had to be medically treated at the adjoining Military Hospital, they were transported, treated and brought back through an underground tunnel. A warden office would monitor the gaol administration. A work shed was erected in 1881 to cater to the needs of infrastructure.
After Independence, the gaol was handed over to the Indian Army. However no records about prisoners were handed over by the British. Post-Independence, Indian Military prisoners were lodged in it under the supervision of Corps of Military Police. After operation ‘Blue Star’, Sikh army men who had mutinied at Ramgarh Regimental Centre were also lodged at the Military Reformatory. They seem to have been the last of the Army men to undergo punishment at this place. According to the local people, the prison was very active during the Second World War when captured prisoners were lodged there. The prison was disbanded in 1984 and it now houses the Territorial Army.