Human safaris to see the Jarawa tribe of the Andaman Islands have finally come to an end as the authorities there bow to domestic and international pressure.
For the first time in a generation, members of the tribe are able to wander through their jungle safe from the prying eyes of the tens of thousands of tourists who travel to the islands in the Bay of Bengal every year to view them.
India’s Supreme Court last week ordered an end to the safaris that had scandalized the country and caused outrage around the world after they were exposed by the Observer last January.
Activists fighting to protect the reclusive Jarawa are hailing a groundbreaking victory.
“We see this decision an important victory in the campaign to stop the ‘human safaris’ around the world,” Survival International campaigner Sophie Grig said. “It will stop the Jarawa being treated like animals in a zoo.”
However, despite the celebrations, activists are still wary about the intentions of the Andaman authorities, who have fought tooth and claw against the ban. The Supreme Court has asked them to indicate whether they believe the tribe should remain in isolation or be assimilated, and have set Feb. 26 as the date for another hearing.
“This is a very dangerous question, as it implies that this decision should rest with the authorities rather than with the Jarawa themselves,” Grig said. “History has shown that pushing tribal people into the mainstream robs them of their self-sufficiency and pride and leaves them struggling at the edges of society — diseases, suicides and addictions soar. This is not a future anyone wants for the Jarawa. They must be allowed to control the amount, and type, of contact they have with outsiders, and to choose what, if any, changes they make to their way of life.”
The beginning of the end for the human safaris came on Monday last week, when two judges sitting at the Supreme Court in Delhi gave short shrift to attempts by the island’s administration to keep the road open to tourists.
“There is a total ban in the area,” the bench ruled.
There are about 400 members of the Jarawa tribe left in the thick jungles in the northern part of South Andaman island. Until about 15 years ago there was little contact between members of the tribe and Indian settlers, but the construction of the Andaman trunk road through the heart of the jungle in the 1980s had made it inevitable that the two groups would be brought into ever closer proximity.
The road connects the capital, Port Blair, with Middle Andaman and North Andaman islands, and settlers argue that it is needed to carry essential supplies and to allow those living on the far side of the Jarawa reserve to be able to access medical services in the capital.
Opponents argue that the road brings the general population into unwanted contact with the Jarawa every day and should be closed. They claim that it has resulted in the Jarawa being exposed to diseases against which they have no natural protection.
However, by far the biggest problem created by the road was the access it provided to tourists — mostly Indian nationals — determined to catch a glimpse of the Jarawa. The daily convoys, ostensibly to see a limestone cave and mud volcano on Baratang Island, quickly became known as human safaris.
In 2002 the Supreme Court ordered the closure of the road, but the island authorities refused to comply, despite repeated requests to do so from the UN Commission on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The Observer published an investigation in January last year into the involvement of the authorities in the human safaris, accompanied by a video which was circulating on the islands, showing semi-naked women and children from the tribe being coerced into dancing for the amusement of tourists.
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about