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Solution in isolation

Members of the Jarawa tribe   | Photo Credit: 24dmc Jarawas1

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Sachin Garg’s “We Need A Revolution” highlights how Jarawas are paying the price for opening their doors to outsiders

Rarely figuring in print and visual media, the recent report about killing of Jarawa infant in Andaman and Nicobar islands brought into sharp focus the acute problems the tribe has faced since its exposure to the outside world. It was reported that the light skin-toned baby suspected to be have been fathered by a non-Jarawa led to his death at the hands of a tribe member.

Many who read Sachin Garg’s latest novel “We Need A Revolution” were quick to note a similar incident mentioned in the book. Hardly surprising as the Grapevine India publication inspired by real stories and incidents pertaining to Jarawas brings to fore innumerable problems faced by them since they opened to outsiders. These include sexual exploitation, physical assault, encroachment of their jungle reserve and poaching of their game. Worst is making them part of human safari which showcases them as different and unique beings.

The story revolves around tourists Samar and Navya joining Shubhro, Jenny and Faraaz, in their campaign against the local politician exploiting the Jarawas. Their struggle is interspersed with varied incidents like assaults on Jarawas, how they are made to perform and dance for eatables like animals and photographed extensively for voyeuristic purpose, all serving well to prick the reader’s conscience . Vouching for their authenticity, the writer says, “While some incidents I observed during my visit, the others are documented in the media and are part of public domain.”

Ironically, the tribes which opened up paid a price like the Bo which lost its last living member in 2007 while one which has consistently dissuaded outsiders landing on their island by throwing spears and shooting arrows has been safe. Did the Jarawas make a fatal mistake? “I feel they would have been better off had they not opened up. Like the West, we need to put in place clear cut Government policies and standardised public etiquette while dealing with Jarawas.” On pointing out that West’s track record while interacting with indigenous population was rather abysmally poor, Sachin agrees. “Let’s learn from their mistakes and act before it is too late.”

Sachin hopes the book will build a case for putting in place an alternative sea route to reach Baratang island’s limestone caves instead of the Andaman Trunk Road passing through the Jarawa Reserve Area which needlessly exposes the tribe to outsiders. He also advocates banning of human safari. Minimal intermingling, he feels would ensure minimising exploitation and spread of diseases, drinking and drugs.

The writer views the situation of Jarawas differently in the context of several ongoing conflicts raging between development and indigenous people. “In the case of others, they want development but not at the cost of their land and resources but Jarawas having survived for hundreds of years neither want development nor are they pleading to be mainstreamed. Outside contact can kill them.”

Coming in contact with Jarawas in his teens, Sachin was struck by their inhuman treatment. The visit to the islands gave him first hand knowledge of their plight and the human safari. “I thought the people on the mainland and cities must be made aware of the happenings and as a full time writer I chose fiction as the means to reach maximum people. I believe a message weaved in a story has a better reach and impact,” he maintains. In an effort to tap people’s support across the spectrum, a short film has been uploaded, espousing the cause of the tribe and appealing the viewers to join the campaign for saving Jarawas by petitioning to the Government. Sachin is happy with the positive response received by the film. It needs to be seen if these efforts pay dividends but one thing needs to be ensured: the Jarawas are treated with dignity.

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2017 3:19:56 AM | http://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/solution-in-isolation/article8389864.ece