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            There are five small traditional hunting-gathering tribes, the Great Andamanese, the Onge, the Jarawa and the Sentinelese on the Andaman islands and the Shompen on the Nicobar islands.

During the nineteenth century, while the British succeeded in bringing around the ten Great Andamanese after several years’ efforts (involving the use of force and blandishment), the eleventh tribe in the Great Andaman area (South Andaman to be precise) continued to remain highly suspicious of the settlement and the settlers. They were what are known as the Jarawa. There were numerous hostile contacts and encounters with them during the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century.

In fact during the 1920s and 1930s the British were obliged to send many armed punitive expeditions to the Jarawa areas in the deep forests on the western coast of South Andaman. The Jarawa themselves found it expedient to spread out to the western coast of Middle Andaman under these pressures.


            A special Bush police force was also created to deal with the Jarawa. After 1947 this policy underwent a basic change as the new Indian government, influenced by Nehru’s philosophy, (Pandit 1989:83-92) did not subscribe to the principle of punitive expeditions against tribes except under conditions of overt and conscious violent political rebellions against the legally established government. The situation here is altogether different, as the Jarawa are still not consciously aware of being citizens of the Indian Republic. However various ‘Jarawa incidents’ continued from the 1950s to the 1970s, and they occur even today though to a much lesser extent. These incidents are mostly caused by the fact that the Jarawa feel disturbed by movements and certain activities of outside people in their territory and wish to discourage these by attacking the ‘culprits’ if very much provoked. 

Since 1968 much thought has been given to this matter by anthropologists and the A&N administration and certain useful measures have been taken to remove prejudice on either side.

 

            In early 1974 a team  succeeded in establishing friendly contact with the Jarawa in Middle Andaman. Since then (over 21 years) many visits have been paid to the Jarawa by official contact parties and friendship has been extended to various groups in South Andaman as well. These visits are made about once a month.

Being under considerable pressure from politically vocal sections of the people, the A&N administration appointed an Expert Committee under Dr S.C. Sinha (anthropologist) to make recommendations regarding the extension of the Andaman Trunk Road alongside Jarawa territory in the South and Middle Andaman.

The committee gave conditional approval for constructing the road. But while the road has been made the conditions important for safeguarding Jarawa interests remain mostly unfulfilled due to difficulties faced by the administration and lack of will. This road remains a big hazard for the survival of the Jarawa. Their population of about 200 has an area of 600 sq km of reserved forest and tribal area. But they are surrounded by more than 105,000 (1981 census figures) settlers. Their territory could be overrun in the coming decades unless very sensible and effective measures are taken to avoid such an eventuality.




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