Podu land controversy: Telangana Adivasis call for bandh on July 11

On July 7, tension prevailed in Mancherial district’s Koyaposhagudem after Forest Department personnel forcibly evicted Adivasis farmers from the disputed forest land, which the Adivasis claim to be theirs.
A woman being dragged by the forest department staff
A woman being dragged by the forest department staff
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A day after a violent confrontation between Adivasi farmers and Forest Department officials over the ownership of forest land in Telangana’s Mancherial district, Adivasi organisation Tudum Debba gave a bandh call urging all Adivasi welfare organisations to block government offices in the erstwhile united Adilabad region on Monday, July 11. A tense situation prevailed in Koyaposhagudem of Dandepally mandal in the district on Thursday, July 7 when Forest Department personnel descended on the village and attempted to destroy the huts erected by the farmers on the disputed forest land.

The aggrieved farmers resisted and were dragged and detained by the forest personnel leading to chaos and panic. One person doused himself with petrol and threatened to set himself on fire. Videos of the incident show the forest personnel forcibly evicting women as well. In one video, a woman is seen attempting to attack a Forest Department staff member with a stick.

Condemning the incident, Tudum Debba said, “The Adivasi farmers of Koyaposhagudem had just returned from jail a few days ago. Now again the Forest Department has attacked them. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao seems to be behind these attacks.” The Adivasi organisation said that they have been repeatedly asking officials to resolve the Podu land issue, but these concerns have not been addressed.

“Last month, we took a rally from Koyaposhagudem to the Integrated Tribal Development Agency (ITDA) office, and handed over a representation to the ITDA Project Officer to immediately resolve the issue. This attack occurred because of the delay from the officials in addressing the issue,” they said in a statement.

Tudum Debba Adilabad district president Godam Ganesh demanded that a case should be filed against the forest officials who attacked the Adivasi women and inflicted injuries on them. He said that the personnel involved in the raid should be sacked from their jobs.

“In response to the harassment by forest officials who have been preventing Adivasi farmers from doing cultivation in erstwhile Adilabad district by filing illegal cases, we have given a call for the bandh. We urge all political parties to extend their support to us and make the bandh a success,” Ganesh said.

Traditionally, Adivasi farmers in both Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have been doing Podu farming, a form of shift cultivation in the forest. A conflict has been going on between the Forest Department and the Adivasis over the ownership of these lands. There have been sporadic incidents of violence in several parts of the tribal belt over this issue. Following this, the state government had announced giving land title deeds to deserving claimants. However, the process which began in November 2021 was abruptly stopped the following month.

Condemning the violence against Adivasis, Telangana Congress president Revanth Reddy said, “Podu lands are now resembling battle grounds. The districts of Mancherial, Mahabubabad, Nagarkurnool and Khammam districts are constantly raging with the podu land issue. Assuring that they will give podu land title deeds KCR got votes and now women are being stripped and dragged away.” 

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