The Konijerla police have arrested 21 villagers of Yallanna Nagar, including several women, on charges of assaulting a forest beat officer and other field staff when the latter tried to take up a plantation drive in the forest land abutting the village as part of Haritha Haram programme on Tuesday.
Based on a complaint filed by the forest staff of the Gubbagurthi forest block, the police booked as many as 21 villagers, mostly women, under Sections 307, 353 and 148 r/w 149 of the IPC.
The arrests drew flak from the CPI (ML-New Democracy) State committee.
In a statement issued here on Friday, CPI (ML-ND) State assistant secretary Potu Ranga Rao alleged that an attempt to murder case was registered against several women farmers, including two nursing mothers, of Yallanna Nagar at the behest of the forest ranger concerned.
“Three women farmers with their month-old babies in their laps were among those arrested and sent to jail,” he alleged, charging the forest staff concerned with adopting vindictive attitude towards “podu farmers” without heeding to their requests to desist from "destroying" their crops.
The State government should withdraw the "false cases" foisted against the farmers of Yallanna Nagar and take stern action against those responsible for resorting to "repressive measures" against women farmers, Mr Rao said.
Meanwhile, sources in the forest department refuted the charges made against the forest ranger by the CPI (ML-ND) leaders.
When contacted, the District Forest Officer Praveena told The Hindu that a section of the villagers of Yellanna Nagar assaulted the forest staff when the latter tried to take up preparatory works for plantation drive as part of Haritha Haram afforestation programme in the forest land under Gubbagurthi reserve forest area on the outskirts of Yellanna Nagar.