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After Telangana range officer’s killing, Guthikoya tribe faces boycott, pressure to leave forest

Forest dept Sunday issued notices to 40 families of the Chhattisgarh-origin Guthikoya tribe to vacate forest land in Kothagudem division. It's a regular practice, says official.

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Telangana: Days after the killing of Telangana forest range officer Srinivasa Rao in a village in Bhadradri Kothagudem district, officials have asked the Guthikoya tribe — two members of which were arrested in connection with the murder — to leave the area. The tribespeople are also facing a social boycott, with the village panchayat having passed a resolution against them.

Officers from the Telangana state forest department Sunday issued notices to 40 families of the tribe in Errabodu village, asking them to vacate the forest area. 

Forest division officer A.Appayya, from the Kothagudem Forest Division, told ThePrint that issuing notices to those “illegally” occupying the forest area was a “regular practice”. 

“These notices are a usual practice; we’ve issued these to them in the past, too. Whenever we see any encroachment, we send them a notice saying the Forest Act does not permit any such activity. We also ask them to submit legal documents (if any) within 10 days for staying in that area,” he said.

Speaking to ThePrint, 27-year-old Ravva Raghava, a resident of Errabodu, said, “The forest officers came to the village around 10 am Sunday and took signatures and thumb impressions from some of us on a sheet of paper. When we asked them what the notice was about, they refused to answer. We were scared and doubtful that this might be something related to our eviction, and some of us refused to sign.”

Rao, who was a recipient of a state gold medal for conservation of forests in 2021, was brutally attacked, allegedly by two members of Guthikoya tribe, last week. He succumbed to injuries later. The police have arrested two suspects.

According to the police, the officer and the tribal people had clashed over the latter’s cattle grazing in the Errabodu forest area, with Rao trying to prevent damage to a forest plantation. 

“These Guthikoya tribes usually migrate from Chhattisgarh and they are not permanent tribes of Telangana. This particular tribe in Errabodu village has been staying there since 2013 or so. They keep migrating to different places in the forest, and every time they move to a new area, they destroy acres of forest land and plantations to live there,” Appayya said.

In the past, Telangana Chief Minister K.Chandrashekar Rao has on several occasions spoken about the Guthikoya tribe settling in Telangana and allegedly causing damage to the forests. 

Also Read: Why Telangana is seeing an increase in violent clashes between tribals & forest officials

‘We will not move from here’

It’s not just the state authorities — the Guthikoya tribe is facing ostracism from Bendlapadu Gram Panchayat, the village body under which Errabodu falls. Saying that the killing had caused panic in the village, with many fearing their own safety, the panchayat has reportedly passed a resolution calling for a social boycott and seeking to expel the tribe to Chhattisgarh. 

“Our gram panchayat had also passed a resolution against us. They say they’re scared of our tribe,” Raghava said. “Why should all of us be punished if two of them make a mistake or get involved in a clash?” 

“We cannot go to the village to buy vegetables or even groceries. We are travelling 20 kilometres to another area to buy vegetables. Let them give notices or anything, we will not move from here,” he said.

Gowtham Poturu, project officer of the Integrated Tribal Development Agency of Kothagudem Division, said the issue of the boycott had come to his notice, but there had been no formal complaint yet. The department, however, has ordered a probe into the matter, he added.

(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)

Also Read: ‘Fitting reply’: Telangana forest dept carries out drive where forest ranger was assaulted



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