Andaman's Jarawa women forced to dance for food, probe ordered

The Guardian video shows three tribeswomen awkwardly dancing for a tourist camera as arranged by a local policeman, but NYT India says such tours no longer happen.

FP Staff January 11, 2012 16:41:28 IST

In what is a glaring evidence of what tourism has reduced the indigenous Jarawa tribe in the Andaman Islands to, a recent video released by the UK-based daily, The Guardian, has been the centre of outrage. It shows females of the tribe — some bare chested, and one naked, trying to cover herself with a  polythene bag containing grain— being asked to dance by an off-camera policemen.

The video shows three women dancing for the tourists, as a camera points at them, and the police officer reminding them, "I gave you food."

Andamans Jarawa women forced to dance for food probe ordered

Anthropologists believe that the Jarawas are descendants of "some of the first humans to move out of Africa". Reuters

The women dance in synchronised steps, waiting for another car to come and give them more food. Then the camera pans to the woman trying to cover herself with a bag of grain, who awkwardly stays fixed, to the policemen's calls: "Dance now! Dance for me."

Anthropologists believe that the Jarawas are descendants of "some of the first humans to move out of Africa". Since the Grand Trunk Road has cut through the area where the fairly isolated tribe lives, the tribals have been reduced to beggary, often asking for food and money from tourists. The Guardian further writes:

This kind of video is the trophy tourists dream of when they set off into the jungles of the Andaman Islands "on safari". The beauty of the forest functions merely as a backdrop. The goal of the trip is to seek out the Jarawa, a reclusive tribe only recently contacted, which is taking the first tentative steps towards a relationship with the outside world...

...The role of the police is to protect tribespeople from unwelcome and intrusive outsiders. But on this occasion the officer had accepted a £200 bribe to get the girls to perform.

The Indian government has asked the Andaman and Nicobar administration to explain the incident. Law and minority affairs minister Salman Khurshid has said that strict action should be taken against those responsible .

Following the release of the video, NDTV reported Tribal Affairs Minister KC Deo as saying that the video is 10 years old, with the Andaman Island's chief secretary saying that now, it was difficult to identify the culprits. The authorities said things are different now.

However, New York Times' India blog India Ink tweeted that NGE S.A.N.E has told them such tours no longer happen and the video is 3 to 4 years old: "theAndaman "shock" video on @guardian site 3 or 4 years old, NGO S.A.N.E just told @HariNYT . These private tours no longer happening."

The Government has ordered an inquiry by the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police (DGP) of Andaman & Nicobar Islands into the video footage. "Inquiry has been ordered (into the episode) and it is being headed by the Chief Secretary and DGP of Andaman & Nicobar Islands. They have been reporting to the Home Ministry and they are in contact with the Tribal Affairs Ministry as well," Union Tribal Affairs Minister V Kishore Chandra Deo said.

"We are trying to get the video clipping and the Home Ministry will refer it for technical examination to ensure how old it is," the Tribal Affairs Minister said.

He said the time of the incident is yet to be ascertained and it did not occur in the recent past. "This video-clipping, it is not fresh and not of recent time. Apparently, people have seen it on the internet for last four or five years. So that is yet to be established. But the fact is that it is not something which has happened in last few weeks or months," he said.

Condemning the tourism which was being promoted in the name of Jarawa tribes, he said, "Its deplorable. You can not treat human beings like beasts for the sake of money. Whatever kind of tourism is that, I totally disapprove of that and it is being banned also."

"Photography and videography is banned in these areas and security is there to ensure that the Jarawa population is not disturbed... Strict vigil is kept to ensure that they are not misused by the people," he said.

With inputs from PTI

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