With residents in Secunderabad's cantonment area alleging that certain areas cordoned off by the army citing 'security', now serve the purpose of an extended golf course, the rift between the two seems to be widening.
In online campaigns on Facebook and Change.org that are fast gathering momentum, the residents have demanded that all public roads shut by the Army be reopened for public use.
Open Secunderabad Cantonment Roads or OSCAR β an organization demanding reopening of closed roads - has alleged that eight of the ten roads that were closed earlier, came under the area of the golf course.
S. Chandrasekhar, spokesperson and coordinator of OSCAR-ARMY, alleges that hundreds of civilians visit the course and pay a hefty fee that does not go into the official accounts of the army. "Did they really need to cordon off 1,736 acres of land for a security threat or to play golf?" he asks.
According to Deccan Chronicle, these roads include Puri Singh Marg, Gen Krishna Rao Marg, Surender Marg, Cariappa Road, the road from Cantonment telephone exchange to Synergy Plaza, the road from BEPTA golf course to Lakdawala Junction, the road from BEPTA golf course to Balajinagar and the road from Navy House Circle at the junction of Puri Singh Marg and Gen Krishna Rao Marg to the Andhra Sub Area Circle near Rashtrapathi Nilayam Gate No 1.
(A map showing the closed roads (red), restricted roads (yellow) and the areas affected. Base map: GHMC website)
The DC report adds that the group posted the link to a performance audit report on defence estates management, which was placed in Parliament in 2011 and raised doubts over the designation of areas which have golf courses as A1 defence land because the golf courses are visited frequently by civilians.
OSCAR has also alleged that the Army did not follow protocol while closing off these areas to the public.
β¨"Under provisions of Section 258 of the Cantonments Act 2006, the standard operating procedure is that all such requests are supposed to be presented in front of the Cantonment board and publicized in the media, following which it goes through several layers of army officials and also gives time for the public to express their dissent, before making its way back to the board for taking a final call. However, none of these things were done," says S. Chandrasekhar, the spokesperson and coordinator for a group that calls itself OSCAR-ARMY
The current standoff between the residents and the Army is the tip of the iceberg. The main dispute came to light in the media and on online groups, after the Army announced in February 2014 that it would block the Gough Road, which is used by thousands of residents of Marredpally, Trimulgherry, Sainikpuri as a link to get to Hyderabad.
Then, the Army cited security as one of the reasons for its decision. "We have taken the decision to impose traffic restrictions mainly on three grounds -- security point of view and defence establishments are located amid civil areas and regulate traffic...It has become a tough job for our trainees to cross the roads as 50% of the training institutions are located on these roads," General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Andhra Sub Area, Major General C A Pithawala told the Times of India.
Following protests by welfare associations, a case in the Hyderabad High Court, multiple delegations visiting Defence minister Manohar Parrikar and chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao shooting off a letter to the ministry, the army authorities have put off the decision till May 31, 2016.
(The board that was put up ahead of the planned road closure)
In the incidents that followed, two main documents were being talked about. One is a High Court order dated September 2014, which said that the Army was free to close the roads being used by local authorities. The other, which the residents claim supersedes the HC order, is a letter dated January 2015 by Manohar Parrikar demanding that all the roads be opened.
Since then, the group which protested the initial closing off, has branched out to encompass all public areas of Secundarabad β closed roads, removal of all gates, barriers and walls β which have been cordoned off to the public.
Now, OSCAR has decided to leverage its demands ahead of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) elections. It has released a set of 20 questions, which encourages residents to ask candidates questions, testing their awareness on the issue of the road closure.
It has also come out with its own affidavit and says that the residents will only vote for candidates who sign the paper.
The group is now planning to arrange a meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee who is in Hyderabad for his southern sojourn and is presently staying at Rashtrapati Nilayam.