PLIGHT OF THE JARAWA TRIBE - Would you be interested in visiting a human zoo? Believe it or not, it is happening today on India’s Adaman Islands. Tourists who come to relax on the beach and take in the scenery have had the added bonus of seeing a very ancient and private tribe, known as the Jarawas.
Tourists are being driven through the isolated area in hope of seeing the people of the Jarawa Tribe going about their daily activities. Tribal dancing, half-naked women and a returning hunting or fishing party add to the air of excitement.
Prepared with offerings of biscuits and fruit the tourists use these to draw them close to their vehicles so they can take pictures and marvel at the still primitive people. These gifts are also used as bartering tools to entice them to dance or stage a picture.
How can this even happen in our day and age? The Jarawa tribe has been forced into a reservation type setting by the Indian government, which in 1970 decided that it was time a road was built through this very land. Not dealing on a political level, the Jarawa gave their disapproval by shooting arrows at the construction workers. These attacks were ignored and the road was built bringing with it unwanted traffic filled with commuters and gawking tourists. A money-maker was born! Although this was not the original intent when the road was built, it sure hasn’t stopped the government from exploiting the tribe’s people and cashing in.
Is this a form of abuse? It certainly has been stripping them of their dignity, self-respect and privacy. The move to a “special location” changed their very way of life, from new and restricted gaming areas to where and how they set up their homes. Being a nomadic people, they normally travel according to weather conditions and availability of a food source. Their lifestyle is now limited by the governments designated boundaries.
Is it our responsibility to watch out for such people groups? I believe the answer is a resounding “YES”. We fight for animals, their very survival, rights and preserving their habitats. How much more important are people? Obviously my feelings are in agreement with several organizations, including Survival International, who have taken up the fight for the Jarawa Tribe. They are seeking to have the Adaman Trunk Road closed in order to preserve the heritage and rights of these people. At this time, there seems to be no way to negate the “reservation-like” conditions they are forced to live on, however every effort is being made to secure privacy and allow these people to live in peace.
What do you think? Should progress and profit be halted simply because a group of people living in opposition to society have chosen to exist? Although they are not in cages, nor are they being held against their will; the facts remain that the government has been forcing them into situations that would cause many if not all of us to rebel. What if it were about you and your family?