The Infamous ‘Andaman Trunk Road'
The Andaman Trunk Road that cuts through the heart of the Jarawa home is the biggest sin committed by the Govt. of India. The road was planned in 1970s and by 1990s was open for travellers. There were violent protests from the Jarawa community when the road was being constructed and even after it was opened for travellers. Many members of the Jarawa were electrocuted while the road was being constructed, to protect the so called ‘civilised’ men at work. The tribe too had retaliated and killed many who travelled on the road.
The road was a controversy from the very time it was planned. It was unjustified for the reason that it would invade the privacy of the natives who are considered to be one of the first among the human race. They have been surviving in their home for thousands of years. There were also suggestions for an alternate road form the eastern coast but downplaying all suggestions, the Govt. of India continued the construction, justifying that it is required for military movement.
By the end of 1990s it was cleared that the Jarawa had given up hostility, except for few recorded incidents in the villages attached to the Jarawa reserve forest, where villagers were killed. The violence gradually subsided when the tribe realised, they are not competent to defend their home using their traditional bows & arrows.
Another reason for the tribes to give up hostility was ‘En-mei’, a Jarawa youth who fell from a tree and suffered a broken leg. He was noticed by the A&N Administration’s men, treated in the local govt. hospital and sent back to his home after he was healed. He is also considered to have acted as a liaison and bridged the gap between the two worlds.
Andaman Trunk Road: The Aftermath
Considered to be important for military movement, the infamous Andaman Trunk Road gradually was made into a ‘lifeline’ of the civilised world, as it connected South Andaman to the North. Regular ferry services between Port Blair (Capital City) and Baratang (Middle Andaman) were stopped by the A&N Administration. The settlers who initially hailed from the mainland India were made to prefer travelling on the road than using seaways, which is ideal for any island territory.
The Andaman Trunk Road thus brought in hundreds of islanders, non-islanders, travellers and tourists who regularly invaded the Jarawa home by traveling on the ATR, with a permission of the Andaman & Nicobar Administration. This was not all. The road had brought in diseases from the outside world to which the Jarawa did not have any immunity.
In 1999 and 2006 the Jarawa suffered outbreaks of measles – a disease that has wiped out many tribes worldwide following contact with outsiders. In September 2011, there was an outbreak of malaria. The local health authorities immediately decided for a ‘Mass Drug Administration’ to stop the disease from spreading in the community. More such consequences are awaited.
To add to the misery ‘Human Safaris’ became popular among the tourists. ‘Jarawa, a stone age tribe, living ‘naked’ in the jungles … must see’ kind of feeling was created by the tour operators through their websites and also by the A&N Administration through their officially shot documentaries. Tourists were now able to see, feel and shoot the naked tribes especially women in open, which is not possible in the so called ‘civilised’ world we hail from.
It was an easy way to make money for the many ‘unaware’ tour operators but the A&N Administration sat over it pretending to be unaware. When reported by NGOs and media, the Administration often came out with a notice which read “Warning to Tour Operators” and the Safaris, exploitation… continued.
The NGOs and local media on many occasions tried their best to bring to the notice of the A&N Administration that Jarawa tribes are being exploited by tour operators and also by the govt. officials (men in uniform) either when posted to protect the tribe or while travelling on the ATR as ‘official guests’. [source: http://andamanchronicle.com/content/view/5408/64/]