Two men belonging to the Gottikoya tribe were arrested Wednesday by the Bhadradri Kothagudem police of Telangana in connection with the murder of Chandrugonda forest range officer C Srinivasa Rao on Tuesday noon. The officer, along with his staff, was returning from the forest when he was attacked with axes and sickles by the tribal people who were trying to occupy newly-laid forest plantations at Errabolu in Bendalapadu village .
“We have arrested two Gottikoya tribal men named Nanga and Tula. They are in our custody and we will give more details later,” district SP G Vineeth told indianexpress.com on Wednesday morning.
Rao suffered severe injuries in the attack and succumbed on the way to the hospital, officials said.
Meanwhile, the officer’s funeral is being held in the district Wednesday with full state honours as per the instructions of Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. The CM had announced an ex gratia of Rs 50 lakh to the bereaved family and a government job to an eligible family member of the officer. He also instructed the forest department to pay the slain officer’s full salary to the family till the age of his retirement.
The 42-year-old forest range officer is survived by wife, daughter and son. He was a recipient of the KVS Babu state gold medal for forest protection in his range in the year 2021.
Bendalapadu and Maddukur villages have seen clashes between tribal people and forest officials about podu (shifting cultivation) land in the past. Rao was a victim of an unprovoked attack by tribal people, said R M Dobriyal, state’s principal chief conservator of forests and chief wildlife warden.
“He was one of our best range officers. Along with staff, he was on a routine visit to forest areas where new operations are taken up. After briefing about the activities to the staff and labourers, Srinivasa Rao was on his way back when he was attacked around noon,” he told indianexpress.com.
According to Dobriyal, a forest watcher had complained to Rao about people grazing cattle within new plantations raised by the forest department.
“The watcher told Rao that these people were not listening to him and were damaging the plantations. Rao reached the spot asked the villagers to go away. While he was taking photographs and dimensions of the area, two men suddenly hacked him with axes. The officer was taken to hospital and died on the way. It is very unfortunate,” he said.
CM Rao had directed DGP M Mahendar Reddy to take action against the culprits as per law. He assured that attacks on government employees while they are performing their duties will not be tolerated.
Bendalapadu and Maddukur villages have seen clashes between tribals and forest officials about podu (shifting cultivation) land in the past.