The Jarawa (also Järawa, Jarwa) are one of the Adivasiindigenous peoples of the Andaman Islands in India. Their present numbers are estimated at between 250–400 individuals. Since they have largely shunned interactions with outsiders, many particulars of their society, culture and traditions are poorly understood. Their name means "people of the earth" or "hostile people" in Aka-Bea.
Along with other indigenous Andamanese peoples, they have inhabited the islands for at least several thousand years, and most likely a great deal longer. The Andaman Islands have been known to outsiders since antiquity; however, until quite recent times they were infrequently visited, and such contacts were predominantly sporadic and temporary. For the greater portion of their history their only significant contact has been with other Andamanese groups; the experience of such a lengthy period of isolation almost completely lacking in external cultural influences is equalled by few other groups in the world, if at all.
There is some indication that the Jarawa regarded the now-extinct Jangil tribe as a parent tribe from which they split centuries or millennia ago, even though the Jarawa outnumbered (and eventually out-survived) the Jangil. The Jangil (also called the Rutland Island Aka Bea) were presumed extinct by 1931.
Comparative map showing distributions of various Andamanese tribes in the Andaman Islands – early 1800s versus present-day (2004). Notables: (a) Rapid depopulation of the original southeastern Jarawa homeland in the 1789–1793 period (b) Onge and Great Andamanese shrinkage to isolated settlements (c) Complete Jangil extinction by 1931 (d) Jarawa move to occupy depopulated former west coast homeland of the Great Andamanese (e) Only the Sentinelese zone is somewhat intact
Before the 19th century, the Jarawa homelands were located in the southeast part of South Andaman Island and nearby islets. With the establishment of the initial British settlement, these are suspected to have been largely depopulated by disease shortly after 1789. The Great Andamanese tribes were similarly decimated by disease, alcoholism and British government-sponsored destruction, leaving open the western areas which the Jarawa gradually made their new homeland. The immigration of mainland Indian and Karen (Burmese) settlers, beginning about two centuries ago, accelerated this process. Prior to their initiating contact with settled populations in 1997, they were noted for vigorously maintaining their independence and distance from external groups, actively discouraging most incursions and attempts at contact. Since 1998, they have been in increasing contact with the outside world and have increasingly been the choosers of such contact. All contact, especially with tourists, remains extremely dangerous to the Jarawa due to the risk of disease. Of the remaining Andamanese peoples, only the Sentinelese have been able to maintain a more isolated situation, and their society and traditions persist with little variance from their practices they observed before the first significant contacts were made. Today the Jarawa are in regular contact with the outside world through settlements on the fringes of their Reserve, through daily contact with outsiders along the Andaman Trunk Road and at jetties, marketplaces and hospitals near the road and at settlements near the reserve, with some children even showing up at mainstream schools and asking to be educated along with settler children.
Impact of the Great Andaman Trunk Road
The biggest threat to the Jarawa in recent years came from the building of the Great Andaman Trunk Road through their newer western forest homeland in the 1970s. In late 1997, some Jarawa started coming out of their forest to visit nearby settlements for the first time. Within months a serious measles epidemic broke out. Later, in 2006 the Jarawa suffered another outbreak of measles. There were however, no reported deaths.
The impact of the highway, in addition to widespread encroachment, poaching and commercial exploitation of Jarawa lands, caused a lawsuit to be filed with the Calcutta High Court, which has jurisdiction over the islands. The case escalated to the Supreme Court of India as a Public Interest Litigation (or PIL). The Society for Andaman and Nicobar Ecology, the Bombay Natural History Society and Pune-based Kalpavriksh joined in the petition, resulting in a landmark High Court judgment in 2001, directing the administration to take steps to protect the Jarawa from encroachment and contact, as well as preemptively ruling out any program that involved relocating the Jarawa to a new reservation. Planned extensions of the highway were also prohibited by the court. However, the Light of Andamans editorialised that the changes to the Jarawa were likely irreversible and should have been assessed more thoroughly before the road was built.
Impact of tourism
A major problem is the volume of sightseeing tours that are operated by private companies, where tourists view, photograph or otherwise attempt interactions with Jarawas, who are often begging by the highway. These are illegal under Indian law, and in March 2008, the Tourism Department of the Andaman and Nicobar administration issued a fresh warning to tour operators that attempting contact with Jarawas, photographing them, stopping vehicles while transiting through their land or offering them rides were prohibited under the Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation, 1956, and would be prosecuted under a strict interpretation of the statute. It has been alleged, however, that these rules are openly being flouted with over 500 tourists being taken to view Jarawas daily by private tour operators, while technically being shown as transiting to legitimate destinations and resulting in continuing daily interaction between the Jarawa and day tourists inside the reserve area.
In 2006, the Indian travel company Barefoot had established a resort 3 km distant from the Jarawa reserve. The development was the subject of a recent court case brought by a small section of Andaman authorities who wanted to stop the resort, and appealed against a Calcutta High Court ruling allowing it to continue. Barefoot won that case.
Some Indian tourism companies bring tourists close to their secluded areas where the natives are tossed food from the caravans. In 2012, a video shot by a tourist showed women encouraged to dance by an off-camera policeman.
On 21 January 2013 a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and H.L. Gokhale passed an order banning the tourists from taking trunk road passing through Jarawa area.
^Maurice Vidal Portman (1898), Notes on the Languages of the South Andaman Group of Tribes, Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, Government of India, "... 'Jangil' is here used for 'Ancestors.' I found that this word was used by the very ancient Aka-Bea-da for the name of the hostile inland tribe in the South Andaman, who are now known as Jarawas and who belong to the Onge group of tribes."
^Sita Venkateswar (2004), Development and Ethnocide: Colonial Practices in the Andaman Islands, IWGIA, ISBN87-91563-04-6, "... As I have suggested previously, it is probable that some disease was introduced among the coastal groups by Lieutenant Colebrooke and Blair's first settlement in 1789, resulting in a marked reduction of their population. The four years that the British occupied their initial site on the south-east of South Andaman were sufficient to have decimated the coastal populations of the groups referred to as Jarawa by the Aka-bea-da ..."
^Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Francesco Cavalli-Sforza (1995), The Great Human Diasporas: The History of Diversity and Evolution, Basic Books, ISBN0-201-44231-0, "... Contact with whites, and the British in particular, has virtually destroyed them. Illness, alcohol, and the will of the colonials all played their part; the British governor of the time mentions in his diary that he received instructions to destroy them with alcohol and opium. He succeeded completely with one group. The others reacted violently ..."
^"Jarawa", Survival International, 2009, retrieved 2009-07-06, "... The principal threat to the Jarawa's existence comes from encroachment onto their land, which was sparked by the building of a highway through their forest in the 1970s. The road brings settlers, poachers and loggers, who steal the tribe's game and expose them to disease..."
^Jarawa"primitives" and welfare politics in the Andaman Islands by Dr. Vishvajit Pandya 2 June 2007 http://www.andaman.org/BOOK/originals/PandyaWelfare/pandya-jarawawelfare.htm "The early history of Jarawa hostility towards outsiders was brought to a gradual end by a series of friendly contacts by the Indian administration which continued till 1998–99 when the Jarawa community on its own came in close sustained contact with the outside world. Despite the changing trajectories of the history of contact between Jarawas and outsiders, what remains significantly unchanged are perceptions of the Jarawa from colonial to post-colonial times." "The Jarawa no longer loiter on the roadside, waiting for charity from passing people. They now allow themselves to be photographed against payment in kind. The ATR has changed the Jarawa and made them conscious that they are objects of discipline for the administration or commodities for gawking tourists in search of the "exotic" in the Andamans. This understanding has helped them to negotiate situations involving outsiders with increasing confidence." "Jarawa seeking medical help are moved to the local medical establishments at once. It is no longer a situation of outsiders trying to convince Jarawa to come out and seek medical assistance. They do so willingly at their own initiative" "These Jarawa, as has been experienced, are very friendly, speak Hindi very fluently and regularly visit the local inhabitants for food. It has also been observed that a group of about 80 Jarawa who regularly visit the Tirur area are so friendly with the people that a few of the Jarawa children recently approached the local teacher for admission in the school as they had observed other children studying in the school/college".
^ ab"Editorial: After ATR what?", The Light of Andamans, 6 Jan 2006, Vol 32, Issue 2, "... The Great Andaman Trunk Road was constructed over the dead bodies of the APWD mazdoors, the Jarawas and the bush police personnel ... The road is mired in controversy, a very serious one at that ... the Jarawas have gone through a churning. They have acquired all, almost all, the vices of civilization. They have taken to eating rice and dal, taking tobacco and gutka and maybe even submitting to sexual exploitation whether by choice or due to allurement. They too have gone too far. The irony is: nobody knows how to save the tribe. Nobody is sure closing the ATR would save them. Yet they have to maintain the position. If the tribal civilization disintegrates even after closing the road, it is nobody's loss; except the islanders. Barring a few, the tribal rights activists don't belong to the islands ..."Check date values in: |date= (help)
^Anvita Abbi (2006), Endangered Languages of the Andaman Islands, Lincom Europa, "... The building of the Andaman Grand Trunk road has exposed Jarawas to the city dwellers and exploitation. Their fish catch and game are bought for a simple packet of biscuits. Jarawa children have become very fond of biscuits and loiter on the street to satisfy their desire from visiting tourists. These are highly endangered tribes, yet a slight increase in the population such as an increase from 19 in 1961 to 50 [refer to the table 2 given above] of Great Andamanese builds some hope. Nine days after giant waves struck the Little Andaman Island, a child was born at a relief camp at soccer stadium and the Ongre tribe of hunters and gatherers took a step away from extinction. Post-Tsunami life for tribes is varied. While Jarawas are least affected by the calamity ..."
^"The road to destruction", India Together, retrieved 2008-11-19, "... In 1998, in an issue relating to excessive logging activities in Little Andaman and the danger posed to the Onge tribe, the Pune-based environmental action group Kalpavriksh, the Port Blair-based SANE and the Mumbai-based Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) filed a writ petition before the Kolkata High Court. The administration stonewalled it. It was argued that the matter could be taken up only in the Supreme Court, and the case landed there ..."
^ ab"जारवा के इलाकों में पयर्टकों का प्रवेश बंद (Tourists' entry to Jarawa areas forbidden)", oneIndia.in, 5 March 2008, retrieved 2008-11-24, "... इस आदेश का उल्लंघन करने वाले आपरेटरों के खिलाफ कड़ी कानूनी कार्रवाई की जायेगी. बयान में कहा गया कि यह जनजाति क्षेत्र केन्द्र शासित प्रदेश के प्रोटेक्श्न आफ एबोआरिजिनल ट्राइब्स रेगुलेशन एक्ट (1956) के अतंगर्त आते हैं (Violators will be prosecuted strictly. These tribal areas fall under the purview of the union territory's Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation, 1956)... अंडमान ट्रंक रोड (एटीआर) पर पर्यटकों को ले जाते समय वाहनों को रोका नहीं जाये और न ही जारवा जनजाति के लोगों को अपने वाहन में बैठाया जाये. उन्हें यह भी कहा गया कि वे यह भी ध्यान रखे कि न तो जारवा जनजाति के फोटो लिये जाये और न ही उनकी वीडियोग्राफी की जाये (Vehicles in which tourists are transit via the ATR are not permitted to stop or offer rides to Jarawa tribal members. Photography and videography of Jarawas is prohibited) ... गणेशन ने कहा कि आधिकारिक तौर पर यह दिखाया जाता है कि पर्यटकों को एटीआर होकर बारातंत द्वीप की सैर कराई जाती है ... हर रोज करीब पांच सौ से अधिक पर्यटकों (Ganeshan said that, while on paper tourists are shown as transiting to Baratang Island ... over 500 are being taken to view Jarawas every day) ...."