The people of the neighbourhood call it the “ladies jail”. It seems that the name is well deserved. It’s an old building complex - clearly built well before independence. The walls are old stone, and solidly thick. The windows are barred. The dark corridors are flanked by high doors along their lengths.
This is not a jail, though its inmates might make that comparison. It is the Government Telugu High School - also known as the Jail School - in Tasker Town near Shivaji Circle in Shivajinagar. If you go in there on a weekday, you’ll probably see over 300 students who studied there, sequestered in classrooms that resemble jail cells. If ever a building did duty as a prison, this is it, you may think. But nobody knows for sure12.
- 1. A senior researcher who has studied old Bangalore history and its temple and architecture, [Dr SK] Aruni [regional director of Indian Council of Historial Research (ICHR)] believes that the structure could have been owned by some rich Muslim traders who had flourished in the cantonment area that was dominated by Europeans and British defence personnel decades ago before independence. “There are no records of a prison or a sub-jail in the Shivajinagar area apart from the well-recorded history of a small prison cum judicial complex which functioned from inside the present day police commissionerate during the British days,” says Aruni who believes that the Shivajinagar structure could have got the jail tag from people in the locality referring to it as a place where women were kept away from the men and over the years, public imagination turned the cause of the confinement of women in the building from cultural to punitive.
- 2. Suresh Moona, city historian and author, who has researched and written extensively on the Bangalore cantonment area says the zenana angle needs a further investigation. “The possibility of such a zenana in the area is slim. Who was the rich trader who built such a big structure nearly a 100 years ago to house the women. The famous names who lived in Shivajinagar have been recorded in detail in history texts and we need to find out who could have owned this stone building,” says Moona.