A Forest Range Officer (FRO) was brutally killed allegedly by a group of Gutti Koya Adivasis with axes and sickles over a “podu land” issue in Errabodu forest area in Chandrugonda mandal of Telangana’s Bhadradri Kothagudem district on Tuesday.
According to sources, Chandrugonda FRO Challamalla Srinivas Rao, 42, who suffered multiple deep stab injuries on his neck and chest in the gruesome attack by an irate mob of migrant tribal people, succumbed to the injuries at a private hospital in Khammam on Tuesday afternoon.
The horrific incident took place on Tuesday morning when Srinivas Rao along with his staff rushed to Bendalapadu tribal habitation to prevent an alleged attempt by a group of local tribal people to remove saplings in a plantation raised by the Forest department in Errabodu forest area.
The migrant tribals, who claimed themselves as ‘podu cultivators’, allegedly chased the FRO for a few metres before attacking him with sickles and axes. The staff, who accompanied the FRO, ran helter-skelter to save their lives.
The assailants fled from the spot, leaving the critically injured FRO in a pool of blood near the incident site, sources added.
The forest staff immediately rushed him to the Primary Health Centre in Chandrugonda from there to a multi-speciality hospital in Khammam, where he died a little later.
There were several incidents of skirmishes between the forest staff and a section of tribal farmers in the remote tribal pockets of the district in recent weeks where the latter put up stiff resistance to the ‘attempts’ by the forest department personnel from raising plantations in what the aggrieved tribals termed as “podu lands.”
The Errabodu incident comes at a time when a survey of “podu lands” is underway in the forest fringe areas across the State as part of the State government’s initiative to find a permanent solution to the long pending ‘podu lands’ issue in the forest fringe villages as per the provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006.
The brutal killing of Mr Srinivas Rao, known as an efficient and upright officer, sent shockwaves across the erstwhile composite Khammam district.
The slain officer received several awards for his commendable services in protecting forests from encroachments during his career spanning more than 18 years, a forest officer of Khammam district recalled.
He brought out an audio CD as part of a public awareness programme on forest and wildlife conservation last year, he remembered.
The shocking incident threw the spotlight back on the safety of the unarmed forest field staff entrusted with the task of removing encroachments on forest lands in volatile areas, the forest official, who did not wish to be identified, contended.