In the Andaman Islands, between India and Myanmar, the ancient Jarawa tribe lives deep in the jungle. For 55 thousand years, the tribe was isolated and untouched by modern civilization – until 1998. Today, about 400 members of the nomadic Jarawa tribe live in groups of 40-50 people in Chadas – as they call their home.
Like most tribal peoples living with self-assurance in their ancestral lands, Jarawa tribe continues to thrive, and their numbers continue to grow. They hunt pigs, turtles and fish with bows and arrows on fringed reefs for reptiles and fish, as well as striped maidens and toothed ponies. It also collects fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey. The bows are made of Choi wood, which does not grow in the whole territory of Jarawa. Jarawa often have to travel long distances to Baratang Island to collect them.
Both Jarawa men and women collect wild honey from tall trees. While collecting honey, group members sang songs to express their joy. The honey collector will chew the juice from the leaves of a bee repellent plant, such as ooyekwalin, and then spray it with its mouth on the bees to keep it away. When the bees are gone, the jarawa can cut off the bee nest, which they put in a wooden bucket on their backs. Always offer a Jarawa after consuming honey.
The Jarawa tribe facing a civilization’s threats
The road that cuts through their lands brings thousands of strangers, including tourists, into their lands. Tourists treat the tribe like a cartoon in a safari park, and divers, local settlers or international hunters, come to the Rich Forest Reserve to steal the game the tribe needs to survive.
They remain susceptible to external diseases to which they have little or no immunity. In 1999 and 2006, the Jarawa tribe suffered an outbreak of measles – a disease that wiped out many tribes worldwide after contact with strangers. A pandemic could destroy a tribe. The women of Jarawa are sexually assaulted by fishermen, settlers, bus drivers, and others.
The principal threat to the Jarawa’s existence comes from encroachment onto their land, which was sparked by the building of a highway through their forest in the 1970s. The Andaman Trunk Road (ATR) brings outsiders into the heart of their territory.
The Jarawa lifestyle, which developed through the very existence of mankind, has undergone tremendous changes since the indigenous people came into contact with modern people. Sincere and always happy Jarwas, after getting to know civilization, has become a “human zoo” – a line of trucks loaded with tourists that runs over the reserve of indigenous people, who walk on it half naked and order food. In addition, taking pictures, shooting videos, and contacting members of the tribe are strictly prohibited by law, which does not stop the illegal flow of tours.
The whole world was amazed and offended by the unscrupulous behavior of tourists, who made jaws dance and jumped in exchange for food. All of these people have been photographed and posted on the internet.
French screenwriter Alexandre Dereim and producer Claire Bellfert produced the documentary “We Are Human” about Jarwa and how the modern world tirelessly destroys an ancient tribe. Jarawa does not want them to be a part of the current civilization, but they are constantly disturbed by its existence.
There are now 403 members of the tribe and they are facing extinction in less than ten years, unless the Indian government takes drastic measures to protect them. The Jarawa tribe remained one of the most closed tribe around the world. They existed long before the Egyptian pyramids and did not come into contact with other civilizations until the 20th century.
In Bojigngiji, an Andamandan language, “jarawa” means “enemy”, “enemy”, “alien.” This is not just a name, but also a kind of reputation. For centuries rumors have spread about a killer tribe around the world like wildfire, with sailors also as cannibals. “They all have heads like a big dog” – this is how Marco Polo described them after a 22 year trip to Asia. However, thanks to the documentary by Derams and Beller, the opposite is clear.
The complete lack of contact with the outside world had a major impact. The lifestyle of the tribe has remained unchanged since the Stone Age. The way they hunt, prepare food, and live whole lives depends on the nature of nature and makes this tribe unique. It seems that there must be a big gap between our moral and social foundations and their arrogance. However, as we learn about their beliefs and how they see the world, we understand that there are qualities of human nature that unite us all. They also love their children, women and men, and they are happy and sad.
But the globalization of the world has led to the fact that contact with the outside world has become inevitable for Garraf. Over the last 30 years, the tribe’s lifestyle has undergone major changes – they dress up, use scissors and mirrors. Thousands of years ago, orchards made bees from beeswax, but today they use lanterns that modern humans have given them.
In addition, most items were handed over by poachers who illegally exceeded the limits of their reserve and killed wild boars, affecting the lives of the destroyers themselves.
In addition to the conflicts with the fishermen, there is another threat, perhaps more serious – in the 1970s a major road was built on the islands to connect small settlements with the capital of the islands. However, over time, the road has been used entirely for other purposes.
Despite government-exempt car bans and strict road traffic regulations, tourists love to go where curious and naive natives walk out of the woods, pray and dance for food, which has been taught by corrupt police officers. This behavior was leaked on video and on the Internet, causing an international scandal. Many media outlets have called what is happening “human zoo” or “human safari”.
Experts say that if such contacts do not stop, either the garave will be threatened with extinction of diseases that indigenous people do not have immunity, or they will have to integrate into the modern world. Although the notion of assimilation in society does not sound as bad as extinction, the prospects for such an outcome are still a bit weak. Jungle lands, now protected by the state, are sold and built. The tribesmen themselves, without education and financial stability, would be used as cheap labor.
Even though the Supreme Court of India in 2002 ordered the closure of the motorway through the Jarawa Reserve, it remains open – and tourists use it on “human safaris” in Jarawa. Poachers come into the Jarawa forest and steal the animals on which the tribe depends for their survival. They also introduced alcohol and marijuana and they were known to sexually assault the wives of their neighbors.
In 1999 and 2006, the Jarawa tribe suffered an outbreak of measles – a disease that wiped out many tribes worldwide after contact with strangers.
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