Life | Tribes | VOL. 13, ISSUE 77, March-April,2013

Island Kings turned to Beggars

Death is certain—slow or otherwise. Here are the Jarawa, ebony lords of the island realm of Andaman, losing one thing after the other—their land, their forests, their waters, their kinsmen and now even their little left dignity. Reduced to beggary, the naive tribes people are a willing bait for the ‘developed’ society. The argument that I raise here is why does India needs to follow a much loopholed protectionist policy towards the Jarawa? It is imperative to mainstream them if we really want to ‘save’ the people, not as a common Indian—but as the alpha, the topmost ruling class of Andaman. The history:Before the 19th century, the Jarawa homelands were located in the southeast part of South Andaman Island and nearby islets. With the establishment of the initial British settlement, these are suspected to have been largely depopulated by disease shortly after 1789. The Great Andamanese Peoples were similarly decimated by disease, alcoholism and alleged British government-sponsored destruction, leaving open the western areas which the Jarawa gradually made their new homeland (www.and.nic.in). Though their ancestors are said to have been part of the very first human migration out of Africa, the Jarawa made contact with ‘outsiders’ for the first time only in 1998. Why the Jarawa voluntarily broke their circle of isolation and sought peaceful interactions with the settler communities remains a puzzle—but it certainly...

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