Should the Jarawa tribe stay iso­lated to con con­serve its cul­tural iden­tity and avoid av dan­gers of out­side world?

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS - DE­NIS GILES is the Edi­tor of An­daman Chron­i­cles

"Ad­min­is­tra­tion cre­ated the malaise" Ð De­nis Giles

NUM­BER­ING around 400, people of the Jarawa tribe oc­cupy the lion’s share of land in South and Mid­dle An­daman Is­lands, ear­marked as Jarawa Tribal Re­serve (jtr). This irks lead­ers of po­lit­i­cal par­ties and busi­ness people, who of­ten ques­tion the need for such a huge stretch of land for a hand­ful of Jarawas. They also sug­gest and of­fer wel­fare mea­sures for the Jarawas, not will­ing to re­alise the con­se­quences these may have on the tribe.The An­daman Cham­ber of Com­merce has of­fered to con­struct houses for the tribe. Po­lit­i­cal lead­ers such as Bishnu Pada Ray, lone mem­ber of Par­lia­ment from the An­daman and Ni­co­bar par­lia­men­tary con­stituency, have even ar­gued that “given a chance the Jarawa can scale po­lit­i­cal heights like Bar­rack Obama,who be­longs to a tribal com­mu­nity”.

Sug­ges­tions and ar­gu­ments will be of­fered ad in­fini­tum but it is clear that the out­side world is more fo­cused on the land oc­cu­pied by the tribe than on wel­fare of the 400-odd Jarawas. As set­tlers in an alien land, we have al­ready de­stroyed what we had snatched from the abo­rig­ines in the name of de­vel­op­ment.As a re­sult we deal with scarcity ev­ery day. To­day if there is land to ac­com­mo­date the ex­plod­ing pop­u­la­tion of set­tlers and wa­ter to quench the thirst of 200,000 set­tlers in South An­daman, it

Out­side world is more fo­cused on the land oc­cu­pied by the tribe than on wel­fare of the 400-odd Jarawas

re­mains in­side the Jarawa home.

The An­daman Adim Jan­jati Vikas Samiti (aa­jvs), an ngo run by the An­daman Ad­min­is­tra­tion, has been given the re­spon­si­bil­ity to look af­ter the wel­fare of abo­rig­ines in An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands.The Jarawa Pro­tec­tion Po­lice has been posted around the re­serve to check poach­ing and other il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties in­side the jtr. Re­ports now in­di­cate that the ex­ploita­tion of the Jarawas is not con­fined to poach­ing, but people of the tribe are be­ing sex­u­ally ex­ploited and in­tro­duced to drugs.

The world’s at­ten­tion has rightly been drawn to the An­daman Trunk Road (atr) that di­vides the Jarawa home into two halves.But we had not re­alised that ex­ploita­tion is in full swing at

the fringes of the jtr.It needed the me­dia to ex­pose the bit­ter truth,the con­se­quence of which was the ad­min­is­tra­tion chas­ing the mes­sen­gers in­stead of fol­low­ing the mes­sage.Was the An­daman ad­min­is­tra­tion re­ally un­aware of the ex­ploita­tion?

When the process to ac­com­mo­date refugees from the erst­while East Pak­istan be­gan,the Jarawas re­acted with hos­til­ity. Per­haps jus­ti­fi­ably,for we were snatch­ing away their land and re­sources.But now when the Jarawas are no longer hos­tile,the set­tlers have be­come ag­gres­sive. It all started in 2007 when the then Ad­min­is­tra­tor of An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands demarcated a buf­fer zone that ex­tended deep in­side the set­tle­ment vil­lages in the name of pro­tect­ing the Jarawa tribe.The con­cept of a buf­fer zone was pro­posed in a mas­ter plan pre­pared in the late 1990s.But it sug­gested a 500 m buf­fer zone. The buf­fer zone cre­ated in 2007 stretched to 5 km on land and 10 km in the sea from the high tide level.This led to clo­sure of many re­sorts and the value of land in the set­tle­ment ar­eas dropped steadily. To add to the com­mo­tion, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers ad­vo­cated that the set­tlers be re­moved from their land to pro­tect the Jarawa tribe. Was there a need to cre­ate a 5 km buf­fer zone? Why did the Ad­min­is­tra­tion never make se­ri­ous at­tempts to sen­si­tise set­tlers on the need to pro­tect the vul­ner­a­ble tribe? Why were there no at­tempts to fix loop­holes in the law that let poach­ers and ex­ploiters go scot free in spite of be­ing held for the crimes?

If we wish to em­power the Jarawas by ed­u­cat­ing them about the out­side world,it should be done in their own lan­guage and in their own way.No one can stop the de­vel­op­ment process.The Jarawas have learnt Hindi and other In­dian lan­guages.The wel­fare staff have learnt the Jarawa lan­guage too.It is time we thought of some se­ri­ous study on the Jarawas,learn­ing and record­ing of their lan­guage, cul­ture and medic­i­nal prac­tices.

"Jarawas want to in­te­grate"

Mo­han Halder

OUR FORE­FA­THERS, Ben­gali refugees of Par­ti­tion, were set­tled in An­daman is­lands in 1949.There were deep forests.We were asked to clear them and make the land cul­tivable.The re­claimed land was al­lot­ted to us.We be­gan with fruit, veg­etable and food­grain pro­duc­tion.Later,be­tel nut and co­conut pro­duc­tion went up in a ma­jor way.

Af­ter the buf­fer zone was no­ti­fied,all commercial ac­tiv­i­ties stopped and banks stopped fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.In Colin­pur vil­lage,a re­sort named Bare­foot was closed.Sev­eral of our vil­lage youths had found work there.

The land value has de­creased by a third af­ter the no­ti­fi­ca­tion. Small shops are run­ning as usual in­side the buf­fer zone,but big businesses with turnover run­ning into crores of ru­pees and em­ploy­ing more than 20 people are not al­lowed.We have lost the op­por­tu­nity that tourism could have pro­vided us.

My grand­par­ents told me that ini­tially, Jarawas used to run away on see­ing the set­tlers.Later,they

If Jarawas are brought into the main­stream they will not die out as is por­trayed in­ter­na­tion­ally

started at­tack­ing us with ar­rows. Then the ad­min­is­tra­tion tried to be­friend the Jarawas: they were of­fered ba­nanas,some were given treat­ment for in­juries.They stopped be­ing hos­tile.Now the Jarawas are no longer con­fined to the jun­gles and de­pend on set­tlers for food.They visit set­tler vil­lages reg­u­larly and ac­cept fruit.Per­haps they are not get­ting ad­e­quate food in the jun­gle.

Our de­mand is that the Jarawas be brought into the main­stream as they them­selves want to.For in­stance,in Tirur,a vil­lage un­der my pan­chayat,a Jarawa came to get his chil­dren ad­mit­ted to school.The Jarawas can speak Ben­gali and Hindi. They ask us for cooked food.The food habits of the Jarawas have un­der­gone a change.When a Jarawa is ad­mit­ted to a hospi­tal, seven-eight oth­ers come along as at­ten­dants be­cause they like the hospi­tal food.

Jarawa num­bers have gone up and their child death rates have gone down.I be­lieve,if the Jarawas are brought into the main­stream they will not die out as is por­trayed in­ter­na­tion­ally. Thirty per cent of the pop­u­la­tion of the Ni­co­barese tribe is now set­tled in Port Blair.They have jobs,they have bought cars,they

have be­come doc­tors. A Ni­co­barese girl has won a prize in cy­cling in the Asia cup.The Jarawas are ex­cel­lent archers and can win us a gold medal in in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions.

I can­not dis­count re­ports of poach­ing or sex­ual abuse in the Jarawa ter­ri­tory.The ad­min­is­tra­tion and the law of the land are meant to take care of that.

I am not sug­gest­ing that Jarawas be brought into the main­stream all of a sud­den.It is a grad­ual process.For ex­am­ple,the ad­min­is­tra­tion can start banana plan­ta­tions close to the Jarawa ter­ri­tory.The set­tlers can get work un­der the Ma­hatma Gandhi Na­tional Ru­ral Em­ploy­ment Guar­an­tee scheme. They will also slowly learn to pro­tect the plan­ta­tions. Con­flict with set­tlers will come down.

"The ad­min­is­tra­tion is a fa­cil­i­ta­tor"

G Theva Neethi Dhas

IN 1998 when the Jarawas be­came friendly with the out­side world their pop­u­la­tion was 235.At present, they num­ber over 400.The Jarawas have a unique life­style and live in har­mony with na­ture.In the Jarawa Tribal Re­serve area, en­try of unau­tho­rised per­sons is banned.

In 2004,the Union Min­istry of Home Af­fairs, framed a pol­icy for the Jarawas.The pol­icy is the bedrock of var­i­ous mea­sures un­der­taken by the ad­min­is­tra­tion of An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands. These in­clude pro­tect­ing the nat­u­ral habi­tat and cul­tural iden­tity of the Jarawas, mon­i­tor­ing their health and reg­u­lat­ing traf­fic on the An­daman Trunk Road.

It is true that the Jarawas have de­vel­oped barter re­la­tion­ship with the ex­ploita­tive el­e­ments liv­ing out­side the tribal re­serve. The An­daman Adim Jan­jati Vikas Samiti (aa­jvs) is sen­si­tis­ing the tribe on the is­sue.The ad­min­is­tra­tion is also tak­ing pe­nal ac­tion against the poach­ers.

But what is hap­pen­ing in­side the Jarawa re­serve is noth­ing un­usual. There is no real in­crease in con­flict. In fact, the ad­min­is­tra­tion has roped in the Jarawas in iden­ti­fy­ing encroachers and poach­ers. Since then,there has been a sig­nif­i­cant change in the Jarawas’ self-per­cep­tion and aware­ness. This drive is part of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s new pol­icy built on re­search and com­mu­nity in­volve­ment.But all this has been un­der­played.

Dur­ing the re­cent elec­tions, can­di­dates did cam­paign for a lib­eral tourism pol­icy, re­lax­ing buf­fer zones, ex­pand­ing the An­daman Trunk Road and bring­ing the Jarawas into the “main­stream”. But we have no plans of push­ing the Jarawas into a pre­con­ceived idea of “main­stream”. Jarawas are al­lowed to take de­ci­sions when ne­go­ti­at­ing with the out­side world. The ad­min­is­tra­tion has adopted the pol­icy of “lis­ten and pro­vide”.

Ef­forts are be­ing made to com­pile and un­der­stand what the com­mu­ni­ties in dif­fer­ent stages of ac­cul­tur­a­tion would like and why, be­fore we just pro­tect and pro­vide.The con­cern is to keep their cul­ture and iden­tity alive and vi­brant.

The An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­land Ad­min­is­tra­tion has set up A&N Tribal Re­search & Train­ing In­sti­tute.The in­sti­tute aims at di­rect­ing re­search to­wards wel­fare pol­icy, act­ing as a clear­ing house for re­search pro­pos­als, set­ting up a tribal mu­seum and pro­vid­ing train­ing.

"Lis­ten, don't com­mand"

Man­ish Chandi

THE HIS­TORY of re­la­tions of An­daman is­lan­ders with non-is­lan­ders shows con­sis­tent in­ter­pre­ta­tion, re-in­ter­pre­ta­tion and mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the no­tion of wel­fare of the indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties of the is­lands. This per­cep­tion, for some,i s coated with the no­tion of prim­i­tive­ness and of a need to as­sist and aid, which is largely driven by non-Jarawa yardsticks of well-be­ing. In con­trast is the per­ceived need to not in­ter­fere in their af­fairs that is more preser­va­tion­ist in out­look.

There is the is­sue of an­thro­pol­o­gists, re­searchers or in­di­vid­u­als be­ing given ac­cess to en­gage with the Jarawas to un­der­stand their “well-be­ing”. This is an on­go­ing process and is be­ing un­der­taken in a slow and nu­anced man­ner by the well-in­formed field staff of the An­daman Adim Jan­jati Vikas Samiti, with a clear pic­ture of con­texts, con­di­tions

and in­flu­ences—rather than by open­ing up the field to var­i­ous or mul­ti­ple in­ter­pre­ta­tions.

Un­der­stand­ing the no­tion of well-be­ing and the com­plex­i­ties in­volved in the cus­tom­ary liveli­hood of Jarawas is much more com­plex than what is al­lowed by re­gard­ing them as a prim­i­tive tribe. What is also now slowly be­ing in­cluded within that no­tion of “cus­tom­ary” is their own choices of in­ter­ac­tion with the world be­yond their forests, which they are en­ti­tled to as free cit­i­zens.

There is also a his­tory to how the State has dealt with such sub­jects when it has de­ployed the no­tion of “prim­i­tive­ness” and of wel­fare through in­duc­tion into the “main­stream”. That process has had no pos­i­tive ef­fect so far, at least in the An­daman is­lands. There is a need to re­con­fig­ure the no­tion of wel­fare to very clearly in­clude the pos­si­bil­ity for a com­mu­nity to con­tinue be­ing it­self but also, and still part of, the whole—this will not hap­pen overnight, and it has to even­tu­ally come from the per­spec­tive of those who are seen as be­yond or out­side the main­stream, as well as from those in it.

It should be un­der­stood that to de­cide no­tions of well-be­ing for some­one else is im­pe­ri­al­is­tic and un­fair. This has hap­pened to so many tribal and indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties across the world.

Learn­ing from this his­tory, a strat­egy to in­crease par­tic­i­pa­tion of the Jarawas in ex­press­ing them­selves, at their own pace and with a sense of com­mu­nity, is be­ing put in place. This also means that the field staff and oth­ers who in­ter­act will need to learn and lis­ten, rather than com­mand. This comes with its own short­com­ings (and ben­e­fits) be­cause of var­i­ous field con­di­tions and hu­man re­source is­sues, though con­sis­ten- cy and sin­cer­ity are in­gre­di­ents that will en­sure that the process is in­clu­sive, fa­cil­i­ta­tive and par­tic­i­pa­tory. It is not a sim­ple or easy process be­cause what a Jarawa or any­body else wants is prone to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion.The field is not closed to in­de­pen­dent en­quiry or re­search, though good qual­ity pro­pos­als and rel­e­vant re­search are of­ten hard to come by. There have been var­i­ous pro­pos­als to re­search, doc­u­ment and in­ter­act with the Jarawas, but most of these lean to­wards be­ing ex­trac­tive in na­ture and have lit­tle rel­e­vance to ad­dress­ing Jarawa con­cerns. There have been some pos­i­tive pro­pos­als as well. There are im­por­tant eth­i­cal is­sues with re­gard to ex­trac­tive so­cial, bi­o­log­i­cal or eco­log­i­cal re­search, es­pe­cially with a vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­nity such as the Jarawa.

The is­sue of the di­chotomies be­tween the in­ter­est of the Jarawas and the set­tlers is also there. But there is a set of set­tlers who are more in tune with the con­ser­va­tion of the Jarawas. This should not be dis­counted.The tense re­la­tion­ship, in my opin­ion, is there not just due to a lack of un­der­stand­ing, but also be­cause set­tlers have been mis­led for long, though some do have am­bi­tions of en­croach­ing the Jarawa Re­serve.

Elec­tion man­i­festos will pro­claim what a po­lit­i­cal as­pi­rant would like to claim, but in my opin­ion, there is a due process to change.The dan­ger­ous is­sue is of in­ter­pret­ing what a com­mu­nity

To de­cide no­tions of well-be­ing for some­one else is im­pe­ri­al­is­tic and un­fair

wants, just be­cause one sees the need to re-in­ter­pret that in­for­ma­tion im­petu­ously for an elec­tion, or other pur­pose. It is not un­com­mon to hear that since some Jarawas know Hindi, or how to cook dal and rice, the time has come to in­te­grate them into the main­stream.

An­other rea­son, of­ten un­said, is of dif­fer­ence, of the Jarawas be­ing seen cul­tur­ally very dif­fer­ent from what is seen as a norm from the present ma­jor­ity and, there­fore, the ar­gu­ment to in­te­grate into the whole. Un­for­tu­nately, di­ver­sity is of­ten seen as a prob­lem rather than as an as­set.

We have enough ex­pe­ri­ences of the out­comes of such ac­tions in the past with the Onge and the Great An­damanese tribal com­mu­ni­ties. Their present predica­ment owes a lot to such ac­tions. So, even with these com­mu­ni­ties there should be a pol­icy of re-learn­ing and re-in­vig­o­ra­tion, and strength­en­ing their sense of com­mu­nity. With the Sen­tine­lese, there is no pol­icy yet to elicit in­for­ma­tion about them.The pol­icy fo­cuses only on en­sur­ing well-be­ing by elim­i­nat­ing, to the max­i­mum pos­si­ble ex­tent, ex­ter­nal threats and in­flu­ences that have made in­roads into com­mu­ni­ties such as the Jarawas.

MO­HAN HALDER is Sarpanch of Tushan­abad Pan­chayat. He nar­rated this piece to Sayan­tan Bera

G THEVA NEETHI DHAS is Sec­re­tary, Tribal Wel­fare, An­daman and Ni­co­bar Is­lands

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