The land of sea, sun, and sand, the Andaman Island was once a tribal island devoid of any contact with the mainland. Over the years, invasion of Britisher’s then post-independence tourism has increased in the Andaman Islands and many people from Bangladesh, Bengal, and other states have settled in this conglomerate of 525 islands. But this has played havoc in the tribal communities and most of them have become extinct. The ones left are in isolation mode in order to preserve their legacy and prefer to live a primitive life in a pre-Neolithic manner.
It is believed that these tribes have been in the Andaman Islands from past 60,000 years and was originally slaves from Africa. People believe during the Portuguese shipwreck in the Andaman Islands in which these African slaves were on board escaped from the ship and made the islands their native place. But after a log research by the Anthropologists, it has been concluded that these tribes are Negrito, not Negros.
The Andaman Islands have six main tribes that are broadly categorized according to their features namely: Negrito and Mangoloid. Out of the six tribes, four tribal communities are part of Negrito including Great Andamanese, Jarawa, Onge and Sentinelese and in the Mangoloid category, there are only two tribal communities including Shompen and Nicobarese. The Negrito group resides in Andaman Island whereas the Mangoloids reside in Great Nicobar Island. The only thing common in these communities is that they do not like any human interaction and are non-vegetarians. In this blog, we will discuss the various tribes of Andaman, their history, and current scenario and the reason behind tribal tourism is not promoted in the Andaman Islands.
Even in the worst circumstances where only 10 tribal Andamanese were left, they preferred to stay away from outsiders and have multiplied to 43. Their main occupation is hunting and gathering but over the years have started interacting with natives and under the protection of government they get rice and other food products for survival. They have also started occupation like poultry and horticulture but still, they prefer no human contact.
Onge tribe is mainly located in South Bay and DongongCreek and prefer to hunt rather than cultivate. While the male of the house goes for hunting and some have started coconut and crop plantation; a woman of the house find roots and tubers beneath the soil. Recently, a public school has been opened for this tribe where student and other tribe members can study. The only problem or challenge with this tribe is alcohol and tobacco consumption which has led to increase in the number of deaths in recent years but the administration is looking into it and creating a de-addiction program for tribal communities.
Andaman Government has declared entry into their areas forbidden but with the construction of the Andaman Trunk road that connects Baratang island, Middle and South Andaman have led to the exposure of this tribe as the road goes deep in the reserved area. Over the years, Jarawa has become familiar with outside world and do not mind getting clicked in return of food or other useful items but travel package is still banned in their region. The main reason behind this that they are a handful in number hardly 400 and it is important to save them from foreign diseases for which they have no natural cure or shield.
Sentinelese tribe is very protective of their community and hence have defied or counter-attacked all the efforts made by the administration to help them with food and kind. Over the years the government had made efforts to establish contact with them but they attack with their arrows and spears which have led to the death of two fishermen. So the government has restricted entry in their area and even anthropologists recommended to leave them alone.
Being shy in nature, Shompen community prefers to stay peacefully in their area and graciously accept government help in terms of food, shelter, utensils, etc. Though the valley they live in is very fertile and has vegetation all around but they love to hunt pigs and fishes for a meal.
So this was about the tribes of the Andaman Islands but the question arises:
Why is tribal tourism prohibited? Why people can’t get a tribal package and explore these communities? As mentioned above, these tribal communities prefer to stay alone and human contact is not what they seek. One of the reasons to have restrictions on visiting these zones are because of they can become aggressive and hurt the tourists. It is true; they are protective of their community especially after the war of Aberdeen. Secondly, these tribal communities are solely dependent on nature for food, shelter, and clothing. So when the restrictions will be lifted, their natural habitat will suffer as there will urbanization which will lead to the cutting of forests which is their home. Thirdly, these tribal communities live as if they are still in Stone Age and lack basic amenities to counteract any disease spread because of foreign contact.
The administration of the Andaman Islands along with the cooperation of Indian Government has taken the responsibility of conservation and survival of these tribes. They provide food, shelter and clothing to the tribes and ensure that they are protected from human threats. As these tribes are not capable of protecting themselves from foreign diseases or situations, their areas or islands are prohibited for tourism. Over the years few tribes have started interaction with the natives of the Andaman in the form of trade and even the administration has started constructing shelters and schools for tribal children.
The demography of these tribes has reduces over the years, hence it is important to keep these tribes reserved and protected from mankind so that their legacy remains and they live a comfortable and undisturbed life in the restricted areas.