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The Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands: Survival of Jarawa Tribe

Living in the wild, uncontacted, strictly hunter-gatherer, the jungle is their ‘Home’, indigenous and secluded tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands – the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jangil, the Sentinelese, and Jarawa Tribe, are believed to have lived in substantial isolation for thousands of years, did not practice cultivation yet self-sufficient.

They have got expertise in hunting & lived by hunting pigs, turtles, fishes, crabs by using weapons like bow, arrows, wooden harpoons, they also gather tropical fruits, wild roots, and honey, therefore we call them as ‘Hunter-Gatherer’. This tropical rain forest is rich with a diversity of animal life and reason for their survival for many years.

But the sad part is, that they were largely wiped out by diseases, violence, and loss of territory following contact with outsiders, being vulnerable to outside diseases to which they have little or no immunity.

Few hundreds of Andamanese remain, with the Jangil tribe being extinct. Only the Jarawa tribe and the Sentinelese tribe maintain steadfast independence, refusing most attempts at contact by outsiders.

Andaman & Nicobar is a union territory of India comprising 572 islands out of which only 37 are inhabited and some of them, the interior and south-central of Rutland Island, central interior and south interior of South Andaman Island, west coast of Middle Andaman Island and North Sentinel Island are restricted islands, reserved for aboriginal tribes, where entry of the tourists are abstained & violation of such restriction is criminal offense and punishable act.

Why Restrictions? There are some serious reasons behind it, you will come to know after reading this article till the end. Before that, let’s dig into the lifestyle, culture & historical background of these 5 mystical tribes, who are they? Where do they come from? How do they live?

The Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

There are five major tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands:

1) Great Andamanese Tribe:

They are native people of the Great Andaman archipelago in Andaman Island, but now living on Strait Island. In 2010, their population is believed to be 52 in numbers and most likely to diminish.

2) Onge Tribe:

They are a scheduled tribe of India from Little Andaman; traditionally hunter-gatherers & their population significantly declined due to changes in their food habits after contact with the outside world and also due to less fertility.

3) Jangil Tribe:

Located in the Bay of Bengal, distributed through the interior of Rutland Island, are vanishing as a result of introduced diseases to which they had no natural immunity.

4) Sentinelese Tribe:

They are North Sentinel islanders in the Bay of Bengal, believed to be one of the world’s last uncontacted peoples, as they seem to have unswervingly refused any communication with the outside world.

The most dangerous part is that they have a reputation for killing people who try to contact them or approach their island for good or bad reasons.

From investigations, it is learned that they are still living in the Stone Age, hunting earthly wildlife and using simple, old methods to catch seafood and knowledge of making fire. The population of Sentinelese is indeterminate ranging between 50-200 individuals.

There is no direct connection to the North Sentinel islands, which are located 50 km west of the capital Port Blair. There were some past events, where some civilized people were fascinated to see the tribal community, made illegal attempts to contact Sentinelese, and ended up losing lives.

The government cannot punish Sentinelese people for killings, as they are living in their ancestral land and just being protective, in fact, outsiders are breaking rules. You may read many stories and facts online.

For the conservation of the tribe, the Government of India strictly banned wandering near North Sentinel Island & also provided armed patrolling to prevent interruptions by outsiders.

Tribes of Andaman and nicobar islands
Read more about tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in museums @Port Blair

5) Jarawa Tribe:

The ancestors of the Jarawa tribe are believed to have been part of the first successful human migrations out of Africa and are the only remaining Negrito remnants of the Andaman Islands out of four, currently have a population of around 270 remaining. 

Jarawa tribe people inhabit the interior and south-central of Rutland Island, the central interior and south interior of South Andaman Island, and the west coast of Middle Andaman Island.

The spoken language of the Jarawa tribe is the Ongan language. Like other tribes, they are also known as rigid protectors of their territory and traditional hunters. It is said that; they have gained detailed knowledge of plants and animal species.

Threats for Jarawa Tribe:

Jarawa tribe has been treated so badly, was facing danger from other Andaman islanders & poachers like-

  • Started to enter their rich forest reserve to harass the tribe and introduced them to alcohol and drugs
  • Sexually abusing Jarawa women
  • Steal animals, which are the lone source of their food
  • Introducing outside diseases, for which Jarawa has no natural immunity
  • Taking photographs, treat them like safari animals & disturb their privacy

Act for Survival of Jarawa Tribe:

The major threat is a highway, Andaman Trunk Road (ATR), which passes through Jarawa reserves of dense forests, and brings daily human safaris & many tourists go by bus from Port Blair city to visit Baratang island to see limestone caves and mud volcanoes, runs through their territory, where tourists can’t resist themselves taking photograph & filming members of the Jarawa tribe along the road, which threatened them badly. 

Anthropologists and human rights groups have been concerned about the effect on the tribe’s contact with outsiders.

To protect the Jarawa tribe from the prying gaze of tourists, the Supreme Court banned the safaris & encouraged them to take the sea route which is a more convenient and affordable way to go to Baratang island. Ferry boats from Port Blair are easily available & you can buy tickets from any shipping service.

Jarawa people are happy in their own natural habitat, living on their ancestral lands without disturbing the civilization, so why would we disturb them, right?

We asked for your kind support, which is vital for the Jarawa’s survival to stop the ‘human safaris’ threatening the Jarawa. Being an educated and responsible citizen, we should respect their existence and privacy. See the actual photos and read more about Jarawa Tribe here.

Let’s preserve the rich culture and ancestral history of Andaman & Nicobar Island and must not disturb their Home called the Jungle!

Tribes of Andaman and Nicobar Islands Jarawa Tribe
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