The tribes: the Jarawa tribe of Andaman

Jarawa in Andamanese language means ‘the outsiders’ or ‘the other people’. This again, is a very primitive tribe which continues to live by hunting and gathering. They are found in the western coastal region of Middle and South Andaman.

Although a few of them have picked up a little Hindi due to their interaction with government officials and outsiders, efforts to decipher their language have failed completely. The total number of people of this tribe is estimated to be approximately 300. This number is far from being accurate as most of them stay in deep forests, away from the prying eyes of outsiders.

Like other tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, this tribe too has suffered at the hands of non tribal settlers. The biggest problem is the road that cuts through their territory; it is used by hundreds of vehicles to ferry people from south to middle Andaman. The drivers and poachers introduced this vulnerable tribe to alcohol & marijuana, exploited their women and stole their animals.

The government steps in

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands administration has now stepped in to protect and conserve this tribe. To ensure the availability of natural food and game for hunting, the Jarawa Reserve Forest area has been extended by 200 sq km. Furthermore,an additional buffer zone of 5 km radius has been notified around Jarawa Reserve. This step has been taken to protect them from tourists and other commercial activities.

While passing through the reserve forest, cameras aren’t allowed to be used to protect the interest of the tribal people. You’ll often see them walking along the road, collecting wild berries with their children or hoisting a dead wild boar on their backs.

Most of them seem to wear a pretty red band on the head and the pattern has a distinct tribal look to it. Getting a glimpse of their lives while we pass through can make you wonder at the origin of all these tribes, how they live and how they fare. It’s like a unique lesson in history by itself.

While many of the Jarawa people wear little to no clothing, one must remember it is their way of living and must be respected at all costs. They must not be called out to, jeered , photographed or thrown food at and should be left undisturbed.

Nobody likes intruders in their home, and we, the outside civilization are intruders in their reserve forest. So, sit back, enjoy the drive through the lovely reserve forest. Additionally, if you’re lucky to see them, take the chance to marvel at the way an older tribe lives.