In an appalling incident, a reporter working with Andhra Prabha, a Telugu daily was allegedly beaten up by illegal sand excavation in the Bhadradri-Kothgudem district of Telangana.
32-year-old Suresh Kumar Idula, who hails from Abbugudem has been working with the Telugu daily as a reporter of Annapureddipalli mandal.
As a reporter, he is also a part of the mandal press WhatsApp group, where the latest news in the mandal is shared. Several police and revenue officials are also reportedly a part of it.
Suresh received information about sand being taken from a lake in Abbugudem, which was then dumped in other parts of the village. Suresh went to the spot and took pictures on Thursday, which he posted on the WhatsApp group.
Following this, the revenue officials of the mandal reached Abbugudem and seized the sand on Saturday afternoon.
When he got to know that the officials were seizing the sand, Suresh and some of his colleagues went to the site and took some photos of the act in order to report it. Suresh's colleagues left the spot after taking the photos, but he decided to stay back and talk to other people at the spot, as he hails from the same village.
Information about Suresh posting photos on the WhatsApp group was allegedly shared to Akula Shiva, who was reportedly the owner of the tractor used for dumping the sand, by one of his relatives, who works in the same revenue department.
Akula Shiva got into an argument with Suresh, who was then allegedly beaten up by Akula Shiva’s men, Akula Nageshwar Rao and Venkateshwar Rao.
Speaking to TNM, Suresh claimed that his only mistake was trying to expose the illegal sand excavation by Akula Shiva, who is an ally of a local politician.
"When I was standing there, they advanced towards me and said 'we know who is behind this seizing, and we know who posted the information on the WhatsApp group’. They started hitting me on my face and hands, threw me on the ground and kicked me in my stomach,” Suresh said.
Akula Shiva’s men stopped assaulting Suresh only after a few locals intervened. Following the incident, Suresh was rushed to a local clinic for his treatment.
"The sand excavation is clearly illegal, which is why officials have seized the sand. That led them to attack me,” Suresh added.
Annapureddipalli SI Sriramula Srinu confirmed the incident and said, "Yes, the incident seems to have happened in the wake of the illegal sand excavation matter."
"On the basis Suresh’s complaint, we have registered a case against three people,” he said.
A case has been registered against accused Akula Shiva, Akula Nageshwar Rao and Venkateshwar Rao under sections 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) read with 34 (criminal acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
However, a senior reporter from the area who didn’t want to be named told TNM that there have been several rifts between the media and local politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats in the region.