Mumbai: Tribals living in Gujarat's Narmada district are angry and disturbed that the state government is not only holding back their rights over forest use but is also accusing their leader of spreading Maoism and has ordered him to move out.

After the tribals approached Governor Nawal Kishore Sharma to intervene under special constitutional provisions covering tribal areas, the governor yesterday directed the state government to explain by July 20 why Bhikhabhai Tadvi, a popular tribesman, was asked to leave Narmada district even though he has no criminal background.

"Under the new Forest Bill passed by Parliament in December, traditional forest-dwelling communities have been vested with usage rights, access to minor forest produce and occupation of forest land," Ambarish Rai, President of Lok Sangharsh Morcha (LSM), or People's Revolutionary Movement, an organisation fighting for tribals' rights, told Gulf News on telephone from Ahmedabad.

"The Gujarat government is defying the law and is worried that we are planning to make tribal development as the main issue when we contest in the next parliamentary elections." According to him tribals constitute 80 per cent of Narmada district's population and 52 per cent of Surat.

On July 7, police opened fire on and beat up tribals of Halgam village of Sagbara block in Narmada when they were farming on their ancestral land, he says. "Such attacks have become a routine matter with hundreds of police storming into villages to prevent them from cultivating on their land," says Rai. With Tadvi, national secretary of LSM, and the LSM itself gaining more popularity and the support of tribal communities in south Gujarat, Tadvi was ordered by the Narmada district collector to leave his home district for two years.

This order includes the nearby districts of Vadodara, Surat and Bharuch. "The government has also accused the LSM of having links with Naxalites. This is a crude conspiracy. Everybody knows we have nothing to do with Naxalites."