The tribals of Sarsala whose lands were occupied illegally by the Forest Department of Telangana are likely to get some relief
On Sunday, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced in Assembly that he would hold ‘Praja Darbars’ in villages like Sarsala and others where tribals had been dispossessed of their lands by the Forest Department and the police.
‘Praja Darbars’ are meetings held with people and officials of a variety of departments to resolve issues faced by the people.
KCR also stated that he was aware of “wrongdoings” by the Forest Department in terms of taking legitimate tribal lands for compensatory afforestation under the Kaleshwaram project.
He said that the brother of Sirpur MLA, Koneru Krishna, who was jailed for allegedly beating a forest range officer with a stick, was a “good man” and that false cases had been foisted on him by the Forest Department.
“A praja darbar needs to be set up and we need to find out what the truth is and what the falsehoods are,” said KCR. “There are some wrong events taking place in some areas. I have been talking to the Forest Department officials. In Kagaznagar, the MLA’s brother is a good person. He is not a bad man. He went to stand with the tribals when the Forest Department officials took tribal lands. Forest officials have filed false cases against him. I am also distressed that they have filed these cases,” he said.
This statement comes on the back of initial silence from the state government and a denial of knowledge by Telangana Forest Minister Indrakaran Allola Reddy when contacted by The Lede regarding the actual truth behind the controversial Sarsala attack.
The Lede was the only publication which exposed the truth behind the Sarsala incident that took place on June 30, an issue that hit the national headlines when a woman forest officer was beaten with sticks by villagers.
While the rest of the media told you the story of a brave forest officer beaten with sticks for doing her job, it was The Lede which did an extensive ground report exposing the actual brutalities against tribals in Telangana.
In a three-part series, The Lede exposed how in Sarsala village of Komarambheem district, Telangana, it was in fact the Forest Department, led by Forest Range Officer C Anitha, who had initiated a brutal crackdown on tribals who begged officials not to take their patta lands for compensatory afforestation.
Anitha had, by the accounts of the villagers, kicked a pregnant woman with her boot in the stomach and she lost her child due to the attack.
We also exposed how the same pattern of violence against tribals and Scheduled Castes was being perpetrated by the Forest Department officials and the police across the district.
In part three, we showed how after being displaced by the state, tribals were denied justice by the courts which consistently demonstrated a lack of will to protect tribal rights.
It is indeed refreshing that KCR and his government have taken The Lede’s reports into consideration and have promised justice for the powerless and voiceless, as a responsible government should.
We hope the people’s representatives and officials walk the talk on this issue that is echoing across the Komarambheem district of Telangana.