ANDAMAN TRIBES WHO SURVIVED TSUNAMI 'MAYBE WIPED OUT'
The Jarawas may soon be wiped out
The remote tribes of the Andaman Islands, famous
for shooting arrows at a patrolling helicopter following the December 2004
tsunami, are in danger of being wiped out completely by settlers invading
The tribes survived the tsunami intact despite its heavy impact on their
islands. Members of one tribe said that on seeing the sea recede, they knew
to run to higher ground.
The Sentinelese tribe, photographed shooting at the helicopter, resist all
contact with outsiders approaching their tiny island. But the forest reserve
of the 270-strong Jarawa tribe is being overrun by settlers from the Indian
mainland, stealing the animals they hunt, plying them with alcohol and
tobacco and sexually abusing Jarawa women. Local police are often complicit
in this abuse.
One Jarawa man told journalists after the tsunami, 'My world is in the
forest. Your world is outside. We don't like people from outside.'
Indian activists and tribal rights organisation Survival International fear
that the Jarawa may very soon be wiped out unless their land is protected.
The islands administration has ignored an Indian supreme court order to
close the road cutting through the
Jarawas' land, and no effort has been made to curb abuse by police.
Survival's director Stephen Corry said today, 'It is a tragic irony that
these unique tribes, whose sophisticated knowledge of their environment has
allowed them to survive on the Andamans for 60,000 years, are under threat
from their fellow man. The Indian government must act to protect them before
it is too late.'
In addition to the Jarawa and the Sentinelese, the Onge and the Great
Andamanese tribes also live on the Andaman Islands. All four tribes are 'Negrito'
hunter-gatherers, thought to have arrived on the islands from Africa up to
60,000 years ago.
The Onge's coastal settlements on Little Andaman were badly hit by the
tsunami, and the Onge set up camp in the forest. Their settlements are being
rebuilt with their participation in a form more appropriate to their way of
life than the previous government-provided houses.
The Great Andamanese, whose number has fallen to only forty, were evacuated
from Strait Island after the tsunami, but have since returned.
The nearby Nicobar Islands, which were also badly hit by the tsunami, are
home to two 'Mongoloid' tribes, the Shompen and the Nicobarese.
The relatively isolated Shompen live on Great Nicobar Island, and their
population at the last census was 398. Nine Shompen are known to have died
in the tsunami. The Shompen are hunter-gatherers and live mainly in the
forested interior of the island.
According to official figures, a total of 3,513 people on the Andaman and
Nicobar Islands lost their lives in the tsunami. Real numbers are likely to
be much higher, and most who died were from the Nicobarese tribe. Unlike the
other tribes, the 30,000 Nicobarese are largely horticulturalists. They live
mainly on coast of the islands. Most have converted to Christianity, and are
much more assimilated than the other Andaman and Nicobar tribes, but still
maintain their own distinct culture.
(Text courtesy Survival International)