'I am afraid of more assaults on frontline forest staff': HyTiCoS director writes to KCR

Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HyTiCoS) director Imran Siddiqui on 26 November wrote to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao raising concern that the regularization drive against encroachments is putting the lives of forest officers at risk

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  27 Nov 2022 11:31 AM GMT
I am afraid of more assaults on frontline forest staff: HyTiCoS director writes to KCR

Hyderabad: Hyderabad Tiger Conservation Society (HyTiCoS) director Imran Siddiqui on 26 November wrote to Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao raising concern that the regularization drive against encroachments is putting the lives of forest officers at risk. He said that he had written about the same in a letter a year ago.

Mr. Siddiqui wrote, "There is no sane voice to still the clamor of regularization of forest encroachments which is cleverly or quite ignorantly disguised wrongly terming it as "Podu Cultivation." Sir, the entire governance mechanism, including district administration, elected representatives and their supporters, ignorant rights activists, and Opposition parties are calling for an unconstitutional proposition of giving away forest lands to illegal occupants."

Referring to the recent murder of Chalamala Srinivasa Rao, Mr. Siddiqui wrote, "Sir, I am afraid of more assaults on online forest staff merely performing their duties."

He further alleged that regularization was the cause for the decline in forest lands in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. "The politically motivated demand is clearly outside the ambit of often misused provisions of the Forest Rights Act. A miniscule tribal population whose rights to forests were not earlier recognized is a negligible percentage of the number of claims currently made. This is evident from the fact that in the year 2010, of the 2 lakh odd claims for forest rights, only 7.5% were unsettled for 53,565 odd acres. However, new claims have been made by 4.14 lakh people for over 13 lakh acres. The scariest part is that the people who have successfully filed the applications consider their birthright over illegally occupied forest lands. Sir, you would be surprised many claims are being made for pristine untouched forests which they plan to occupy in the future. Sir, I am afraid thousands of acres will be felled and occupied," he wrote.

Mr. Siddiqui also suggested that the Naxal conflict in Chhattisgarh has subsided and that it was time to send back Gutti Koyas with a carefully crafted rehabilitation plan. He urged KCR to hold talks with the tribal people, frontline forest officers, and a few people from civil society with knowledge about these issues to have a deeper understanding and logical conclusion of the ongoing fiasco over Podu (forest) lands.

Background

A rift over podu lands took an ugly turn and resulted in Srinivasa Rao's murder on 22 November in Chandrugonda range in Bhadradri Kothagudem earlier this month.

According to sources, the people belonging to the Gutti Koya tribe (who migrated from Chhattisgarh 16 years ago) attacked Rao when he questioned them for removing saplings planted by the forest department. There was a heated argument between both sides. As tension mounted, the cultivators attacked Rao with sickles, knives, and other sharp-edged weapons. The officer fell to the ground but the assailants continued attacking him.

Rao was known as an exceptional officer in his circles. He was awarded a gold medal for the KVS Babu Memorial Award in 2021.

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