The Supreme Court on Friday stayed proceeedings in a case registered under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against a Telangana woman forest officer, who was attacked by a mob allegedly led by the brother of a ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) MLA.
The order of a bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta came on a plea that sought quashing of charges under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, (SC/ST) Act and other provisions leveled against Kagaznagar Forest Range Officer C. Anitha.
Advocate A D N Rao, who is assisting the top court as amicus curiae in matters related to forest and the environment, informed the court that on June 30, Anitha was attacked by a group in Komram Bheem Asifabad district.
She had gone to the village with a few officials to plant saplings as part of the government's 'Haritha Haram' green initiative.
Later on July 8, Anitha was booked under the SC/ST Act on a complaint filed by a tribal woman. Rao told the bench that a similar incident has recently happened in Maharashtra with another forest department official.
He requested the court to ask Telangana and Maharashtra to file action taken report regarding these two incidents.
Thereafter, the bench asked the chief secretaries of Maharashtra and Telangana to file action taken report in both the matters and posted it for hearing on July 29.
The conflict in Telangana‚Äôs Kagaznagar, where a woman forest officer was assaulted, is just another facet of the larger battle that forest dwellers in India are currently fighting to safeguard their rights.
'Podu' cultivation, a traditional farming practice of forest dwellers, which involves shifting cultivation methods on hill-slopes, is finding itself going head-on against the state‚Äôs interest to conserve the forests, which has resulted in unrest in Telangana's forests.
While forest officials allege that farmers are illegally cultivating the lands, the locals claim that they're traditional forest dwellers and have rights over forest lands.
Read: Encroachers or rightful cultivators? Why there‚Äôs unrest among Telangana's forest dwellers