It would seem it took only 100 days for outrage over the brutal attack on a Telangana woman forest officer trying to stop land encroachment to be forgotten.
On June 30 Forest Range Officer Anita, who was carrying out a tree-planting drive near the Kawal Tiger Reserve in Adilabad district, was thrashed by a mob led by Koneru Krishna, a local political leader belonging to the ruling TRS. Koneru Krishna, who was later arrested, resigned as Vice Chairman of the Zila Parishad after police filed cases of attempted murder and obstructing forest officers were filed against him.
He claimed he was protesting "injustice to farmers". "They attacked us in the presence of police and threatened us even in the presence of senior policemen," Anitha had told NDTV after the attack.
The shocking incident, a disturbing video of which went viral, was "strongly condemned" by KT Rama Rao, Working President of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) and son of Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao.
Fast forward to October 1 and Koneru Krishna, whose brother is local MLA Koneru Konappa, has been reinstated as Vice Chairman of the local Zila Parishad.
Anita, the victim of that shocking assault, who has been Kagaznagar Forest Range Officer for only 15 months, has been transferred out, as has Assistant Conservator of Forests M Raja Ramana Reddy, who was appointed to the post only six months ago, though he has been working from here for the last one and a half years on what is technically called `official duty'.
#WATCH Telangana: A police team & forest guards were attacked allegedly by Telangana Rashtra Samithi workers in Sirpur Kagaznagar block of Komaram Bheem Asifabad district, during a tree plantation drive. (29-06) pic.twitter.com/FPlME1ygCp— ANI (@ANI) June 30, 2019
Seven others have been transferred as well, in an apparent attempt to make the shifting of Anita and M Raja Ramana Reddy seem routine.
"This has been done under political pressure. It was expected especially after the Chief Minister himself gave the accused and his brother, who is the MLA, a clean chit," Mr Ramana Reddy said, adding, "There has been no support from the department. We are only receiving threats. I wonder why we should even work here."
Anita will now be working out of the Khanapur Forest Division in Nirmal district, while Ramana Reddy has been posted to the Vigilance Department of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests office in Hyderabad.
Anita and Ramana Reddy were given protection after the attack - he got two guard, she got one. "But it has been an atmosphere of intimidation. Locals are instigated against us," she says, adding that she was sceptical about the protection even when the video went viral.
In the last 40 years, the two forest officers say, the smuggling of teak, the poaching of animals and land encroachment have all taken place on a large scale. Of the nearly 45,000 acres of forest land, only 5,000 acres is occupied by tribals.
"There is an attempt to create the perception that tribal land is being alienated by us, whereas we haven't even tried to retrieve that. We took back 10,000 acres of land occupied by non-tribals, which is what led to the attack,'' Ramana Reddy says.
Ramana Reddy points out that Kagaznagar does not have too many tribals and it is non-tribals, non-locals who are using tribal rights as an excuse to encroach forest land.
"We have given 1622 tribal families ROFR documents, the record of forest rights. They are tilling and cultivating 5000 acres. But the rest of the land is national wealth and a global green treasure. In the We were doing our duty but are paying a price for it,'' Mr Ramana Reddy told NDTV.
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