The Andaman and Nicobar administration on Tuesday said that it would serve legal notice on two Delhi-based TV channels telecasting a video footage showing a group of tribal women being ordered to dance for tourists by a policeman.
British newspaper, ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The Observer’, a weekly, had released video footage of police involvement in ’human safaris’ in the Andaman Islands. The videos were recently aired on the two Delhi-based channels.
The policeman had allegedly taken a bribe of £ 200 to take tourists into the protected Jarawa reserve.
While Andaman and Nicobar police remained tight-lipped about the incident, administration sources told PTI that legal notice would be served on the two TV Channels regarding this matter as the footage was one-sided and they had not taken the version of administration or cross-checked with it.
The sources said the administration was “totally against Jarawa tourism” but ruled out closure of the Andaman Trunk (ATR) road ordered by the Supreme Court a decade ago to protect the Jarawa habitat. The road cuts through South Andaman where the Jarawa reserve is located, linking Port Blair with Diglipur in North Andaman.
The official said any decision on closure of the road, the lifeline of the Middle and North Andamans, would take time as it was a policy decision but said an alternative route via sea was being chalked out to bypass the Jarawa reserve.
A Supreme Court ruling in 2002 on the Shekhar Singh Commission report had ordered closure of the ATR road to protect the Jarawas.
The scandal, first exposed by Survival International, an NGO in 2010, involves tourists using an illegal road to enter the reserve of the Jarawa tribe.
Tour companies and cab drivers ‘attract’ the Jarawa with biscuits and sweets, The Guardian and The Observer had said in their report published in January last year.
The video showed a group of Jarawa women being ordered to dance for tourists by a policeman, who had reportedly accepted a £200 bribe to take them into the reserve.
One tourist had previously described a similar trip to the newspapers. “The journey through tribal reserve was like a safari ride as we were going amidst dense tropical rainforest and looking for wild animals, Jarawa tribals, to be specific”, he said.
Survival International has called for tourists to boycott the road.
Working with a local organization, SEARCH, Survival has distributed leaflets to tourists arriving at the Islands’ airport warning of the dangers of using the road.
Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said, “This story reeks of colonialism and the disgusting and degrading ‘human zoos’ of the past.”
“Quite clearly, some people’s attitudes towards tribal people haven’t moved on a jot. The Jarawa are not circus ponies bound to dance at anyone’s bidding,” Mr. Cory said.
The lone Member of Parliament from the Islands, Bishnupada Ray told PTI that the video tapes were very old and government should take immediate action against this.
He said that ATR road should not be shut down because the ATR is the life line of Middle and North Andamans people.
He also said in the present scenario, the Jarawas wanted to come into mainstream and the government needed to “welcome and support the Jarawa community to join the mainstream on humanitarian ground.”
Renowned environmentalist of Andaman, Samir Achariya, however, supported the Shekhar Singh Commission recommendation on closure of the ATR road for survival of primitive Jarawa tribe.