Unofficial curfew: Nighttime restrictions by police in Hyderabad’s Old City stirs controversy

The police cite the recent murders in the city as the reason for the restrictions, particularly in Kamatipura, which has seen more than three murders in the past two months.

ByDeepika Pasham

Published Jul 06, 2024 | 6:00 PM Updated Jul 06, 2024 | 6:00 PM

Unofficial curfew: Nighttime restrictions by police in Hyderabad’s Old City stirs controversy

The narrow lanes of Hyderabad’s Old City area wear a deserted look as the clock strikes 9 pm. The shopkeepers said the police have imposed an unofficial curfew on the area.

Youngsters venturing outdoors often get a taste of the cane as the police chase them home after 9 pm. The explanation is that these measures are required to maintain law and order.

The area witnessed five murders in the past two months — three in the last week alone — prompting the police to act tough.

According to the Hyderabad and Secunderabad (Public Place of halt/Place of Public Entertainment/Amusement) Rules, 2005, all establishments must seek permission from the police to function past midnight.

Wine shops must shut down by 10 pm, pan shops by 11 pm, and bars, restaurants, dhabas, and tea stalls by midnight. Any violation of these specified timings will result in the invocation of the Hyderabad Police Act 21/76 against the offenders.

Incidentally, the merchants are not averse to the police chasing the youngsters away. They alleged that youngsters were often seen consuming drugs. The merchants also feared that viral social media videos often incite violence

No formal complaint has been raised against the police barring a few posts on X.

The situation, however, has evoked mixed responses from the residents with the majority of them opposing the restrictions and a few concerned parents deeming them necessary.

No rules against late night outings

Even though the police rules that govern the twin cities — Hyderabad and Secunderabad — state that all bars, restaurants, dhabas and tea stalls can function till midnight without any restrictions, the police are forcing them out of the streets as early as 9 pm.

South First visited several areas from which these videos were shared on social media.

In the narrow lanes, where no more than a two-wheeler can pass, residents are hesitant to sit outside their homes in the late evenings since police patrol vans often come after 9 pm, shouting at or beating those outside, forcing them back into their houses.

The areas near Falaknuma, Chaderghat, Kamatipura, Moghulpura, Azampura, Dabeerpura, and Yakutpura have been under strict police restrictions, particularly in Kamatipura, which has seen more than three murders in the past two months.

Even though police cite these murders as the reason for the restrictions, there is no proper proof that these were due to late-night outings.

All the murders were allegedly due to business issues or previous rivalry among the victims and the accused.

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Strict restrictions

On Monday, 1 July, amidst the busy school and college schedules in Chaderghat, Sanjay Magatha, a sugarcane seller, explained, “For the past two months, the police have not allowed us to stay on the roads after 9 pm. I can’t question them because my business operates on the roadside, so I have to comply.”

“My friends who run small eateries have also been asked to close by 10.30 pm, and sometimes they request the authorities to let them stay open until 11 pm, but rarely get the chance,” he said.

“When we ask the police, they say the area has reported more murders and weapon attacks, along with drug abuse in the localities. To some extent, having these rules is better for our safety,” Magatha said.

A young man named Mohammad Abdul in Moghulpura, whose friends were recently shouted at by the police, said, “The restrictions and fear of going outside have increased, but not all youth are criminals. Our house verandah is where we relax for a while after dinner or coming home from work. The houses and lanes are very cramped, and it’s difficult to stay inside when we are used to relaxing outside and having freewheeling conversations with friends or neighbours.”

In Kamatipura, where most videos were shared from,  South First spoke to two people with differing opinions on police restrictions.

A concerned parent said that the restrictions are necessary for the youth, while a fruit vendor opined that without an official order, the police’s actions are unjustified.

The parents were concerned that the nighttime outings of their wards could lead to drug abuse since some youngsters were seen found intoxicated.

They believe that restraining them from going out in the night would make them unlearn their toxic habits, including drug abuse.

Ejaz, who has been running a pan shop for over 20 years, said, “There were never such restrictions in the Old City areas until the past two months. We’re being asked to close down. I support the police in chasing away the youth because they have no business gathering in groups on the roads late at night.”

“If they are engaging in unacceptable habits, then the police have the right to intervene,” he said.

Shaik Kareem, a fruit vendor, said, “Galliyone Mei Police Aake Maare (Police are entering lanes and hitting people). When we question the police, they say the orders are from higher officials, and so everyone must follow them. It is a loss for us small vendors. I wasn’t beaten, but I saw people being hit.”

Haseena, a housewife who came to buy groceries in Yakutpura, said, “We are aware of the police patrolling. Women usually don’t sit outside, but when we go out, we fear being stopped by the police on our way back home.”

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Police justify action

Sneha Mehra, DCP, South Zone, in a media release denied that the police instructed establishments to shut down by a particular time.

The timings are strictly followed by the existing rules.  The closing timings will remain 11 pm and 12 pm on weekdays and 1 am on Weekends.

Kamal Kumar, SHO of Kamatipura, said that the number of murders has increased significantly, with youth allegedly roaming with weapons such as knives and daggers.

“There have been videos of individuals asking why the police didn’t act when there were murders. So, it is our duty to maintain law and order. We will continue patrolling the Old City to create awareness about these issues. The police officers do not physically assault anyone; they just raise the stick,” he added.

Even though most of the residents are miffed over the restrictions of the police, no formal complaints have made their way to the officials.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)

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