The Urgent Need To Save The Jarawa Tribe From Extinction

Posted on September 23, 2012 in Specials

By Harsh Choudhary:

The Jarawa is a small society of hunter-gatherers who live on the isolated Andaman and Nicobar islands in the Bay of Bengal. Their present population is estimated to be around three hundred people. Jarawa tribes inhabit the South Andaman Islands and Western Coast of Middle Andaman Islands. They have been living there for at least fifty thousand years. They live a nomadic life and thus stay in group of forty to fifty people. Most of them live in temporary huts built by woods and leaves found in the forests. Jarawas hunt pigs and eat lizards and fish and also gather seeds and honey from the forests for a livelihood. They restrict themselves to their jungle domains and that is why their culture and traditions are poorly understood. The interaction activities were almost nil before 1997 but then some of them came to nearby towns and villages to settle and started to mingle with the people. However the Jarawas do sometimes attack intruders inside their territory.

Anthropologists suggest that the Jarawa people are a subset of the Onge people group of the Little Andaman Island, who have migrated to the Great Andaman Island. There is linguistic evidence to support the views of the anthropologists as the language spoken by the Jarawa shows considerable resemblance to the language spoken by the Onge people. Some of the Jarawa people who came in contact with other people have also picked up some Hindi words.

Most of the Jarawas died because of epidemics like measles. Also, the tourism agencies are further endangering the Jarawa people who are already on the verge of extinction. Many companies promote the chance to see or meet a real-life Jarawa in their tourism packages. Such exposures can prove to be fatal as they can introduce diseases and common illness to these people to which they might have little or no immunity. Although the Andaman and Nicobar administration has made it illegal, but there still are companies who offer the chance to a lot of eager travellers.

The Jarawa people had been living in pure isolation for around 55,000 years. However today, a road runs right through their forest home: The Andaman Trunk Road is a 200 mile-stretch of concrete and is being used now more than ever. The Indian Supreme Court had ordered to close the useful road but the court’s order is not sufficient if the will to enforce the decision does not exist. Local authorities refuse to implement the rule because the road links the south of Andaman to the middle and the north. The authorities tried to balance the development and preservation by imposing a buffer zone in which no economic activity was permitted. It seems to be a wise decision but not efficient enough as the road has brought with it a lot of diseases and pollution.

The government has decided to let them decide their own future and they are trying for minimum intervention. The Jarawas are now mostly dependent on outside food resources for their survival. For this, even food is airdropped in the forests. The other thing is that people should understand that Jarawa people are also humans and no circus artists. Many cases have been reported where tourists had made these people dance for them. The people absolutely must treat them in the right way. We have to understand that they are indigenous breeds and they need their own environment and external intervention creates huge problems for them. The need of the hour is to let them evolve by themselves as we did.