Survival condemns regressive election pledges on Jarawa tribe

April 29, 2014

Election candidates have promised to remove a protective buffer zone and to bring the Jarawa tribe into the mainstream, despite the threats this poses to the tribe. © Survival

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Survival International has condemned dangerous pledges made by political candidates during the Indian 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which would put back the Jarawa’s rights by decades.

The regressive pledges include: bringing the Jarawa tribe into the mainstream; removing a protective buffer zone around their reserve; and building two bridges along the illegal Andaman Trunk Road – all of which could be devastating to the welfare of the Jarawa.

In what have become known as ‘human safaris’, the Jarawa already face degrading intrusions into their forest home by hundreds of tourists traveling along the Andaman Trunk Road each day intent on spotting members of the tribe.

Hundreds of tourists pass through the Jarawa reserve every day. © /Survival

The current administration has promised an alternative route to the Andaman Trunk Road by March 2015, which would remove tourists from the road. But new pledges by both the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidates to build two new bridges along the existing route inside the Jarawa reserve make the opening of an alternative route increasingly unlikely.

Currently, no commercial or tourist establishments are allowed within a buffer zone around the Jarawa reserve. But political candidates from both the BJP and the Congress Party have now promised to remove the buffer zone – a highly regressive step.

The current MP for the Andamans and candidate for the BJP, Bishnu Pada Ray, has also promised to bring the Jarawa into the mainstream should he get re-elected – a policy viewed as entirely unacceptable by the international community. India’s President also recently condemned attempts to forcibly assimilate tribal peoples as it has led to the disappearance of entire tribes.

Policies of ‘mainstreaming’ tribes have had devastating consequences in the past and have been particularly destructive for the Jarawa’s neighbouring tribe, the Great Andamanese, who were decimated by attempts to settle them. Only 53 members survive today.

Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said today, ‘Bishnu Pada Ray’s scandalous proposals show utter contempt for the Jarawa’s survival – attempts to force the tribe to integrate will destroy them. The very notion of mainstreaming is rooted in a colonialist attitude and the outmoded conviction that governments know best. In fact, this approach is always disastrous.’