The Hyderabad High Court on Monday directed the Telangana government not to evict the Gothi Koya tribe from a forest near Jalagalancha village in Jayashankar Bhupalapalli district.
The court was responding to allegations that authorities had razed their homes to the ground, without prior notice.
A petition had been filed by the Civil Liberties Committee, which accused the authorities of meting out "inhuman treatment" to the Gothi Koyas.
The petition also alleged that even women were not spared, as protesters were tied to tress and flogged.
Arguing for the Telangana government, additional advocate general, J Ramachandra Rao, said that the tribal people were not permanent residents, and had come from Chhattisgarh.
The counsel for the state also said that they were willing to provide them shelter, but not in the present land that they occupied, as it was under the jurisdiction of Eturunagaram Wildlife Sanctuary.
After hearing both sides, the court ruled that living in sanctuaries was not prohibited, and told the court that no coercive action can be taken, unless when rare species of wildlife are under threat.
The entire incident began last month on September 16, when Forest officials, with the help of the police, swooped down on a Gutti Koya settlement in Jalagalancha area and razed their huts to the ground.
According to reports, officials dragged the tribal people out of their huts and threw away their belongings, evicting around 100 people in total.
“We migrated years ago and we have all the mandated identity cards including Aadhar, ration cards and some of us even have voter ID cards. With no prior intimation, hundreds of officials came in tractors and brought down our homes. When the women in the village tried to stop them, they were tied up and beaten with sticks,” a 30-year-old local told The New Indian Express.
However, officials defended the action, stating that the tribal people were cultivating crops on sanctuary land, which was against the law.
"We served notices and tried to counsel them on three occasions since May. Though there was an initial agreement to leave the place, they decided against it in the eleventh hour. In the end, we had no option but to follow orders and evacuate them by force," Pasra forest range officer J Shireesha, told The Hindustan Times.
The official also said that the state government had already identified land for the tribal people to rehabilitate, and assured of granting any other help that would be needed.
Following this, the petitioners moved the High Court.