Kothagudem FRO murdered by Gutti Koya tribal people for stopping encroachment

According to sources, the tribal people attacked Rao when he questioned them for removing saplings planted by the Forest Department. There was a heated argument between both sides.

By Nimisha S Pradeep  Published on  22 Nov 2022 4:11 PM GMT
Kothagudem FRO murdered by Gutti Koya tribal people for stopping encroachment

Hyderabad: In an unprecedented incident, a Forest Range officer (FRO) Chalmala Srinivas Rao was killed in an attack by people belonging to the Gutti Koya tribe in the Chandrugonda Range in Bhadradri Kothagudem District on Tuesday. A rift over podu (forest) lands took an ugly turn and resulted in Rao's murder.

According to sources, the tribal people 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.



"Two people Madkam Tula and Podium Nanga are identified as accused in the case under Section 302 and Section 332 of the Indian Penal Code," said G Vineeth IPS, SP Kothagudem. Section 302 of the IPC is applicable for punishment for murder and states that whoever commits murder shall be punished with death, or 1[imprisonment for life], and shall also be liable to fine. Section 332 of the IPC deals with voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty. The punishment is imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years, with fine, or both.

Gutti Koya tribe

According to reports, the Gutta Koya tribe has been residing in the forest of Telangana for the last sixteen years after migrating from Chattisgarh. They speak the Koya language. Apparently, the conflict between the Maoist and government forces led to their migration in large numbers from Chattisgarh to the forests of Telangana.

Condolences pour in

IFS officer Parveen Kaswan expressed his condolences to the deceased officer and wrote on Twitter, "Today Shri Srinivas Rao, Forest Range Officer, Kothagudem circle in Telangana was attacked with sharp weapons. He laid his life while on forest protection duty and was protecting a plantation site. Salutes to the green soldier."

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

The other forest officers in the state were also deeply saddened to hear the news of Srinivas's death. "It is the most unfortunate incident. A uniformed officer was doing his job and upholding what the law says when he was killed. This could shake other officers hereafter to show courage in attending to such duties," said a retired forest officer who wished to be anonymous.

Expressing regret at the incident, Forest and environment minister Indrakaran Reddy conveyed his deepest sympathy to the officer's family members. Condemning the attack, the minister said there would be strict action against the attackers and the people encroaching on the forests.

The minister further commented, "The government is working to solve the poddu land issues. It is not right to attack the officers merely performing their duties." Addressing the officials, he asked them not to lose heart and that the culprits would be brought to justice so that no such incident would take place in the future.

Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao expressed deep shock and sorrow over the death of the Forest Range Officer. CM announced a Rs 50 lakh ex-gratia to the family of the deceased FRO and directed officials to pay the full salary to their family members till the age of retirement of the officer, in accordance with the laws and regulations. He further mandated that eligible family members be appointed to government jobs through the Karunya system.

CM KCR has also directed CS Somesh Kumar to perform the last rights of the FRO with official government formalities. Minister Indrakaran Reddy and Joint Khammam District Minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar have been directed to attend the officer's funeral and closely look after the related arrangements. KCR further stated that the government would assist government employees in carrying out their duties without interference.

Larger issue

According to sources, forest officers are not allowed to carry any weapons when they go into the forest. "This has been the case for more than 30 years. The rule was first brought because it was feared that in such areas, there would be extremists and that these extremists would snatch away the weapons. The police officers say that they would come and help in case of emergency but that is not practically possible every other time," said one of the forest officers. The officers ask how they can tackle a mob without having any kind of weapons.

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