A forest range officer in Telangana was attacked by a mob, led by Telangana Rashtra Samithi leader Koneru Krishna, on Sunday, reported PTI. Krishna, who is the brother of sitting Sirpur MLA Koneru Konappa, and 15 others have been arrested, according to NDTV.
A video of the incident showed the mob, armed with sticks, repeatedly attacking vehicles even as the officer, identified as Anitha Chole, stood atop a tractor and tried to pacify the mob. The mob then hit her with sticks till other police personnel stepped in.
The incident took place in Komaram Bheem Asifabad district as the forest department tried to carry out an afforestation programme in Kaghaznagar. The Kaghaznagar forest divisional officer said that around 20 hectares of degraded forest land had been selected for compensatory afforestation. “Few villagers of Sarsala arrived and started using filthy language and also attacked Anitha, Forest Range Officer Kaghaznagar, led by Koneru Krishna, Vice Chairman Zilla Parishad,” the forest department said in a press release. “Due to the attack by Koneru Krishna and the mob of locals, she was injured seriously and immediately shifted to Kaghaznagar for medical treatment and other necessary formalities.”
Telangana Principal Chief Conservator of Forest P K Jha said the land belonged to the forest department. “I was given to understand that earlier there were some attempts to encroach it,” he told PTI. “That time our people got them vacated. It was totally under our control. There is no cultivation. His [MLA Koneru Konappa] brother was there [during the attack].”
Anitha alleged that Krishna first hit her with a bamboo stick, followed by the others in the group, reported PTI. She is currently admitted to a hospital.
Koneru Konappa, however, claimed that his brother was not involved in the attack. He said Krishna had gone to the spot to pacify the local residents. “What the forest department is saying is wrong,” Konappa told The News Minute. “The department officials tried to uproot crops on land that was being cultivated by locals for the past 30 to 40 years. When the locals went to protest, the police lathicharged them. Only then did my brother go to the spot, to try and resolve the issue.”
Konappa said there was a Congress worker who was driving one of the tractors. “His name is Tirupati and he does not even stay in the village,” claimed Konappa. “My brother only charged at him with a stick asking what he was doing there, and nothing else. The issue is between the public and the officials.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress condemned the incident.
“BJP strongly condemns the heinous attack on the woman forest range officer,” said Krishna Saagar Rao, the chief spokesperson of the saffron party unit in Telangana. “Around 30 to 40 goons of the TRS attacked this officer and her team. She has been badly injured and is in the hospital now. The MLA and his brother need to be booked and prosecuted for this heinous attack. The BJP demands immediate action and an explanation by the CM on this unacceptable behaviour by an MLA and his brother.”
The Congress, too demanded action against the MLA and his brother. “Koneru Krishna must be suspended from the TRS,” Sirpur-Kagazhnagar Congress in charge Harish said. “The TRS should apologise and ensure that strict action is taken against the accused in the case.”