KHAMMAM: The last rites of Chandrugonda forest range officer (FRO) Chalmala Srinivasa Rao, who was killed in a violent attack by GothiKoya tribals on Tuesday, were performed with state honours at Eerlapudi village of Raghunathapalem mandal here on Wednesday.
A sea of humanity had descended on Eerlapudi village to have the last glimpse of the slain forest officer. Hundreds of mourners, including friends, family, and colleagues, bade an emotional farewell to Srinivasa Rao, as his mortal remains were brought to the village and later consigned to flames, amidst poignant scenes. Srinvasa Rao’s 14-year-old son Yashvanth lit his father’s funeral pyre.
The mourners raised slogans like ‘Srinivasa Rao Amar Rahe Hain’ and ‘We want justice’ even as his last rites were performed amid a 21-gun salute. Nearly 600 forest employees from several Telangana districts, including 300 forest range officers, section officers, beat officers, and guards, paid tribute to the slain forest officer. Along with the district officials, the burial was attended by top forest officials, including four PCCFs like R.M. Dobriyal, the special chief secretary for the forest Santi Kumari, and CMO secretary Smita Sabharwal.
Forest minister Allola Indrakaran Reddy, transport minister Puvvada Ajay Kumar, and Rajya Sabha Member V. Ravichandra were among those who carried the forest officer’s body from his home to the funeral site in Earlapudi.
After the last rites were completed and the ministers left, the forest employees, under the leadership of Telangana FROs Association president Shoukath Hussain and secretary D. Narender, staged a dharna at the location of the funeral. The forest staff, including beat officers, chanted "we want justice" and demanded that the government establish forest stations and provide them firearms so they could defend themselves. Additionally, they announced that they would boycott grama sabhas starting on Thursday and raised slogans against revenue officials, particularly against Khammam district collector V.P. Gautham.
Meanwhile, the forest minister assured that the government would take into account the demand for arming and protecting the forest employees. "Under the current laws, it is not possible to provide weapons. It comes under the purview of the forest Acts,” he stated. However, he promised to speak with Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao about providing firearms to forest employees in the wake of Srinivasa Rao’s killing.
Transport minister Ajay Kumar acknowledged that there was an issue with the Chattisgarh Gothikoya tribals and that the government would not tolerate it if they caused trouble in Telangana. "We'll do everything we can to stop their migration. The local adivasis won't ever cause such issues, but the Guthikoyas will create such problems,” he said....