Indigenous Jarawa people in danger

Krishna Lalbiharie umlalbi0 at SPAMcc.UManitoba.CA
Wed Aug 25 14:17:20 MDT 1999

>The Jarawa are one of four tribal peoples on the Indian Andaman Islands.
>They are isolated hunter-gatherers, already in danger of contracting fatal
>diseases from outsiders.  Now a lawyer living in the islands has initiated a
>court case seeking to remove them from their land and relocate them to
>another island.  There has been no consultation with the Jarawa; if the case
>is successful it could herald the extinction of this nomadic people.
>The lawyer, who has little knowledge of the Jarawa, has filed a Public
>interest Litigation case against the Indian government.  She is asking for
>these hunter-gatherers to be forcibly evicted from their rainforest home of
>thousands of years.  Quote: "This is high time to make them acquainted with
>modern civilisation".
>She quotes two previously contacted tribes of the islands, the Onge and the
>"Great Adamanese" as examples of the type of settlement she wants for the
>Jarawa.  The latter were relocated by the British colonial administration
>and in 150 years their numbers fell from 5,000 to 28.  The Indian government
>resettled the Onge ; numbers are down from 670 at the start of the century
>to 97 today.  The local government tribal welfare department admits both
>cases were disastrous for the tribes and has said that they do not wish to
>repeat old mistakes.
>There are thought to be between 250 and 400 Jarawa.  Little is known about
>their way of life as until recently they resisted contact with outsiders.
>What is known has been gleaned from brief meetings and the findings from
>abandoned camps.  They hunt pigs and lizards and catch fish, turtles and
>dugong (a marine mammal) with bows and arrows.  They also collect honey,
>roots and berries from the forest.  They have a main camp for two or three
>months where 40-50 people live together in a large communal hut, but much
>of the time they move around in small family groups, stopping in hunting
>camps for a few days before moving on.
>Now the tribe has begun coming out of the forest to visit the villages of
>Indian settlers on the edges of their land.  No one knows why; the contact
>is peaceful and, despite the lawyer's contention to the contrary, they are
>not "starving".
>The Indian government has yet to decide its policy on the Jarawa.  however,
>the Jarawa have a right to exist on their own land and to chose their own
>way of life; these rights are enshrined in international law.  Neither the
>Indian government nor the courts should be allowed to take this away from
>By writing polite letters to:
>Ms Maneka Gandhi, Minister of Welfare, Shastri Bavan, New Delhi 110 001,
>India.  Fax: +91 113384918
>Shri. I. P. Gupta, Lieutenant Governor, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Raj
>Niwas, Port Blair 744 101, Andaman Islands, India,.  Fax: +91 3192 32656
>If possible send or email copies of your letters to:
>The Times of India, 7 Bahadur Shah Zafar, Marg, New Delhi 110002, India.
>editor at
>And  also to the Indian High Commission or Embassy in your country.
>You could make the following points:
>History shows that when nomadic peoples are forcibly settled they are
>decimated by disease and suffer appalling social problems.  If they are
>moved from their land these problems will be even worse.
>The Jarawa must be allowed to make informed decisions about their future
>themselves; they must not have another way of life imposed upon them.  This
>right is enshrined in international law.
>The Jarawa also have the right to their own land - it should not be
>encroached upon by outsiders.
>Thank you.
>Information provided by Survival, London, UK.  survival at

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