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Raja Bahadur Venkatarama Reddy

Raja Bahadur Venkatarama ReddyRaja Bahadur Venkatarama Reddy was the first Hindu to be made kotwal of Hyderabad as in the late 19th and early 20th century, during the Islamic rule of the Nizams, the powerful position of kotwal of Hyderabad was held only by muslims. His tenure lasted almost 14 years and he commanded a great respect among the public for his outstanding police administration. The Legendary Kotwal Legends and Anecdotes of Hyderabad -44.

The Legendary Kotwal By Narendra Luther

The Commissioner of Police of the City of Hyderabad used to be called the ‘Kotwal’. It is one of the oldest offices and used to be the most powerful job in the Government. A number of foreign travelers to the city have made references to this office in their accounts.

The last Kotwal was also the first Hindu holder of this office. He served in this job for over 14 years and became a legend even during his life-time.

Venkatram Reddy was born in August 1869 in Rayanipet village of Wanaparthy estate in Mehboob Nagar district. His father was a Patel of some eight villages and was well off. He was a grand nephew of the then Raja of Wanaparthy. His mother died three days after his birth, and the father, when he was about five. His maternal uncle, William Wahab, then took care of him. (The name might suggest that he was Christian. That was not so. The Raja of Wanaparthy had employed a Catholic teacher to educate some of his boys. So the boys were given Christian names, and in deference to the Muslim ruler, Muslim surnames). He was educated in his village and then at Wanaparthy where he became a class-fellow of Raja Rameshwar Rao II.

Wahab was in the Police and he brought up Venkatram till his sixteenth year when, while serving at Raichur, Wahab died suddenly.

Venkatram stayed on at Raichur and became a ward of Wahab’s successor, a Pathan named Nazar Muhammad Khan. By now the young man had acquired some rudimentary education. Khan got him the job of Grade IV Amin ( ) in the Police. He was so puny and short that he stuffed his dress with cotton for the interview with the Chief of Police. The Chief saw through the trick, smiled, and took him in.

He served in various districts and because of his diligence rose gradually. While working at Nizamabad, he helped trace a British deserter from the army and was given a reward of eleven rupees. Hemkin, the Chief of State Police, adjudged him as the best officer in the state He was appointed head of the district police in 1901 and served in a number of districts including the Atraf-e-Balda – area around the city. His old class fellow who was now the Raja of Wanaparthy asked for his services as Secretary of the Estate, on promotion.

When Nawab Imadat Jung became the Kotwal of Hyderabad, he asked Venkatram to be appointed as his First Assistant. He worked in that capacity for six years and instituted many reforms in the city Police. Imadat Jung died in harness in 1920.

Suddenly, Venkatram was asked to see the Nizam. Although, he had worked in the Nizam’s Private Estate, he had never met the ruler before. He was therefore naturally very jittery. It was a Friday and when the Assistant Kotwal presented himself at the King Kothi. After his prayers, the Nizam looked up the nervous officer four or five times and then said, ‘Well, you can go’. The next day he was appointed the Kotwal. From then on he would see the Nizam not every day, but sometimes several times a day.

Venkatram Reddy handled his delicate job adroitly. Not only the Nizam, but also members of both the leading communities were very happy with them. That was a time when the Freedom Struggle was gaining strength. Hyderabad was engulfed by the Khilafat Movement. A group of agitators came from Ahmedabad and joined the local leaders in demonstration. The demonstration became violent and the doors and windows of the Residency court were smashed. Venkatram Reddy himself went to the site and persuaded the leaders to adopt peaceful means.

He also ensured peace at the Ganesh procession by making four policemen the bearers of the palanquin carrying the idol.

Venkatram did not know English. When the Prince of Wales was to visit Hyderabad, he started learning English. He use to practise speaking words and sentences loudly in his room. His orderly, not knowing the meaning, feared that his master had probably become insane. He rushed to the Police station to inform the officer there. On the second day of the Prince’s stay there was a banquet given by the Nizam. The Kotwal reached the palace ahead of the Prince, but was refused entry by the military, which was incharge of the security inside the palace. When the Prince arrived, there was no one who could guide his party to the right block. That caused acute embarrassment to the host and the guest. The Nizam then asked Venkatram to take total charge of the arrangements.

The Nizam gave him the title of Raja Bahadur on his birthday. A year later the British Government awarded him the Order of the British Empire.

After many extensions of service, he finally retired in 1934. In relaxation of rules for pension, instead of half his salary, he was given a pension of 1,000 rupees a month. Immrdiately thereafter, he was appointed Special Officer of the Nizam’s private estate. He was also made chairman of the Commission for Inquiry into the Indebtedness of the Sahibzadas.

Venkatram was one of those rare officials who get involved in social work. He persuaded the Reddy community to get educated and take up Government jobs. To facilitate their stay in Hyderabad, he established the Reddy Hostel through donations raised from the Rajas and leading landlords and businessmen. He also established the Reddy Women’s School. Since the Osmania University did not grant recognition to a Telugu medium school; he got it affiliated to the Karve institute at Pune. Now the school has become a college. He also established a number of other educational and philanthropic institutions. As a member of the State Legislature, he supported the bills for the eradication of child marriage and for widow remarriage.

When he died in 1956, he had only thirty rupees in cash on his person. His first wife died a few months after the birth of his son, Ranga Reddy. His second wife had already two children. The daughter, Narsamma was married to a contractor who built Pathergatti. The son, Laxma Reddy did Bar-at Law, married two English ladies one after another and became a judge of the High Court. He had three sons and a daughter who are no more.

His own son became commissioner of excise and because of the job, was known as Abkari Ranga Reddy. A bachelor, he adopted Madhusudan Reddy as his son. Now going on seventy, this charming gentleman, lives in Banjara Hills. He is the sole surviving descendant of the last and great Kotwal of the city.

A statue of Vekatram Reddy stands in the circle opposite the YMCA at Narayanguda. He had given the institution the land.

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