People of a tribal community in Navsari on Wednesday filed a police complaint against the district’s BJP president and Gandevi MLA Naresh Patel for allegedly branding tribal people Naxalites, in a public speech a few days ago. Naresh Patel himself belongs to a tribal community.
“Some tribal organisations are involved in the Naxalite movement,” Naresh Patel said, addressing a gathering of BJP workers in Surkai village of Chikhli taluka in Navsari district. “Also, they do not believe in Lord Ram. Moreover, tribals do not pay power bills, and they are also violent. All these acts resemble a Naxalite nature.”
“We are deeply saddened that our party leader would utter such statements,” said Tushar Patel, who filed the complaint. Tushar too is a BJP worker and belongs to the Dodhiya Patel tribal community. “I was also present in the meeting and sent a message to Naresh Patel, when he was holding the mike and giving the speech, to stop making such statements on tribals, but he continued. There were a few youths who recorded the entire incident. The video went viral on several WhatsApp groups and it hurt the sentiments of lakhs of tribals people,” he added.
Tushar handed a complaint to Navsari District Superintendent of Police Girish Pandya, demanding that strict legal action be taken against Naresh.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Tushar said he worked with a tribal organisation on creating awareness about their rights. “We hold group meetings in different villages in the district to create awareness among the tribal people about their constitutional rights. We also discuss how to preserve tribal culture,” said Tushar. “However, we don’t incite the tribal people to take the law into their hands and engage in violence (as alleged by Naresh Patel).”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Naresh denied that he had called tribal people Naxalites. “I am also a tribal and I wanted to change their mentality, as I have seen some tribal organisations telling tribals — in the name of creating awareness — not to follow the rules and regulations of the government,” said Naresh. “If I have termed them Naxals, they should give some proof. I am ready to face the challenge.”