Nearly a month after a woman forest officer in Telangana was assaulted during a plantation drive, a BJP MP from Adilabad allegedly asked tribals to thrash forest staff if they plant saplings on lands used for “Podu cultivation”.
Addressing a programme to mark the death anniversary of tribal leader and Hakkula Porata Samithi (Tudum Debba) founder Siddam Shambu at Utnoor mandal on Saturday, BJP MP Soyam Bapu Rao told tribals to uproot plant sapling in “Podu” lands under the ‘Haritha Haram’ plantation project.
“Obstruct plantation works by forest officials in podu lands and uproot the saplings planted by them. If required beat them up I will take care of you. Need not worry about forest staff,” Rao was purportedly heard saying in a video.
The issue of ‘Podu’ lands (Podu cultivation is a form of shifting cultivation) is a bone of contention with forest officials trying to enforce law in forest areas and those involved in ‘Podu’ farming resisting it.
Alleging that Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao was trying to suppress Adivasis, he said, “Adivasis and Tudum Debba workers have to be alert and fight against his (CM) plans.”
The Chief Minister had last week said he would visit various districts, along with ministers and officials, to resolve the issue of ‘Podu’ lands, which witnessed conflict between ‘Podu’ farmers and forest officials in the state.
The Telangana government’s massive afforestation drive, ‘Haritha Haram’, is resisted by those cultivating on these lands.
On June 30, a woman forest official was attacked by a group of people, allegedly led by the brother of ruling TRS MLA, in KB Asifabad district when the forest personnel were planting saplings.
Bapu Rao is not new to stoking controversy. In June, he allegedly said any Muslim youth who tries to indulge in stalking tribal girls would be “beheaded.”
A video of him purportedly making the comments went viral.
“I want to tell the Muslim youths one thing, that if you try to indulge in stalking our Adivasi girls you will be beheaded. I am requesting minority youth brothers in the united Adilabad district, don’t follow our girls. It would be difficult for you if we start following you,” he purportedly says in the video clip.
with PTI inputs