The threat to the Andamans’ Jawara tribe

A Jarawa man and boy by the side of the Andamans Trunk Road. Photo Salome/from Survival

A Jarawa man and boy by the side of the Andamans Trunk Road. Photo Salome / from Survival

From Asia Sentinel:

Is the life of a primitive child on an isolated island in the Andaman Sea, in the words of the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, likely to be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short? Or is it idyllic and peaceful?

Bishnu Pada Ray, an Indian member of parliament representing the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, is proposing that children aged six to 12 of the Jarawa tribe, perhaps some of the most isolated people on the planet, be taken away from their parents to be “kept in a normal school atmosphere, trained in personal hygiene, use of clothing and basic reading and writing skills” for six months, then returned to the tribe to civilize the rest of them.

That has stirred outrage among representatives of indigenous peoples across the world, who say it “echoes the much-criticized policy of the ‘Stolen Generation’ in Australia, and similar policies in North America.” Michael Cachagee, executive director of the National Residential School Survivors’ Society in Canada, said in a press release by Survival International that his organization “cannot comprehend or fathom that any nation in today’s world would consider interning any of their citizens, especially children, in a ‘residential school’, given the horrific history associated with these types of schools in Canada and other parts of the world.’

The islands are a series of specks with the Andaman Sea on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other. Only 38 of the 550-odd islands are inhabited. They are thought to have been populated by some of the first human migrations out of Africa. The Jarawa were totally isolate until about 1998, when some tribespeople began to emerge from the forest to visit towns and settlements created by several hundred thousand ethnic Indians, who now vastly outnumber the tribes, encroaching on their land. The Jawara have resisted civilization, famously shoot in at helicopters with bows and arrows during the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004. Although nearly 6,000 people died in the tsunami, most of the aboriginals survived because oral traditions passed down from generations ago warned them to run for high ground from large waves that follow large earthquakes. More:

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