Truth Behind the Jharwa Tribe Exploitation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands


Jharwa tribe is always in the new for some reason or the other. Recently it was in the news when some reporter from The Guardian reported that they were being exploited.

Truth Behind the Jharwa Tribe Exploitation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands
A view of the ATR
I switched on NDTV and read the news that was reported as ‘breaking news’ – Guardian releases video of a Jharwa girl dancing to amuse tourists.

India’s premier news channel was shamelessly telecasting the video repeatedly and when it wanted to talk about others news, it bluntly showed this video in one corner of the screen. This means that you tune into the channel and all you see is the dance of the Jharwa tribe girl.

I am surprised why KC Deo, the tribal welfare minister, has not asked NDTV and other channels to bring down the video immediately. Anyway, coming to the issue.

Jharwa tribe is an indigenous tribe that lives in the jungles of South Andaman district of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

There are about 400 members in the tribe and until few years ago, this was a very hostile tribe who did not want any contact with the civilians. Later, with government attempts, administration could contact them and the tribe started interacting with the locals. There were reports of exploitation and other issues, because of which interacting, photographing and giving any eatable to Jharwas was not permitted.

In present situation, if you pass through the Jharwa reserve, you can not and are not allowed to photograph them, talk to them or interact with them in anyway.

Something about Jharwa reserve. To protect the Jharwa tribe, government has declared a huge area connecting South Andaman and North Andaman as ‘Jharwa Reserve’. This means that this area has lot of places in jungles where this tribe resides. Since it is a reserved area this means that every one (including the DCs, ACs and even the police officers) have to move in a convoy!

Vehicles are allowed to move only in a convoy which is led by a police man in the front. There is a police vehicle or a police man on a bike at the end of the convoy too. This is to ensure that the convoy does not break anywhere and no one stops the vehicle to interact with the Jharwas.

In a convoy the vehicles move at a consistent speed to ensure the rules laid down by the administration are strictly followed.

This reserves falls on ATR (Andaman Trunk Road). This is the longest road of the Island and connects South Andaman (precisely Port Blair) with North and Middle Andaman (Baratang, Rangat, Maya Bunder and Diglipur).

Earlier about 8 convoys were allowed in a day but now (for the Jharwa’s convenience) the number of convoys has reduced to just 4. The first convoy starts at 6 am and the last one ends at 3 pm. Given the huge number of tourists these islands get in the peak season, one can easily imagine a long queue of vehicles waiting to pass through a convoy. At the same time if you miss your convoy by lets say even 5 mins.. you have to wait for atleast 3 hours to catch the next convoy.

I have myself been trapped in a situation where I was travelling with my baby who was ill, infact we were travelling to Port Blair to see a Pediatrician; and we missed the convoy. We waited for full 2 hours in the sun at the gate to catch the next convoy.

People from North Andaman have two modes of transport – ship or by road. Ships run on alternate days which means there are 3 ship services in a week from Diglipur to Port Blair. If there is no ship on a particular day, we have to travel by road. The convoy system has only aggravated the commute problem instead of making it easy.

But yes, it has certainly made it difficult for tourists to contact Jharwas, which is eventually a good thing for them. (Else, we have more such videos dancing on social networking sites).

I have traveled on the ATR several times and I do see Jharwas around when we cross the reserve area. (Jharwas usually come out on the roads in the day time; they are amused to look at the ‘coloured’ tourists). But I have never photographed or interacted with them. We did not even slow down our vehicle for a second. We can not. No one can.

Not even when a Jharwa woman hit our vehicle window with a axe kind of a thing she was carrying with her! Yes, the Jharwas do try to come close to you and if you do not respond, they can even hit you.

This is now a vicious circle. ATR is very important for transport; infact it is the lifeline of North and Middle Andaman that connects it with the capital city of the Islands. And several NGOs, and other human rights organizations etc are demanding the closure of this road which would leave the northern Andaman handicapped.

To solve this, it has been suggested to move Jharwas to some uninhabited island so that no one can ever contact them and nor can even see them. But then the SCI has ordered not to displace them from their current location.

I too feel that like Onges, Jharwas should also be moved to some island that is not open for tourists. But probably the tribal welfare associations, NGOs and other such bodies do not really want to leave Jharwas alone. After all, if this happens, they will also not be able to be with stone age men! Right?

I am not sure how true this video is or if it is a new or an old video, but I know that in normal circumstances, it is extremely difficult to even see Jharwas in today’s times.

And some questions for the person who released the video –

Why did you ask the so-called police man to ask the girls to dance for you?
If you did, why did you film it?
If you did, why did you release it on the fastest mode of communication today? To show how they are exploited or to exploit them on internet?

India has always been a source of amusement for westerners. This gesture has again proved the sick, old thinking of them!

After all this controversy, I really hope the government of India finds a lasting solution to not only to Jharwa’s security but also to the commute problem people living in remote areas of A&N island are facing.

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6 Responses to “Truth Behind the Jharwa Tribe Exploitation in Andaman and Nicobar Islands”

  1. Sarah Isaiah says:

    Hmmm…. True Surabhi…. All gossip hungry people… rather jobless people.

  2. Yeah Sarah..

    They are gossip mongers..!

    Btw, nice to see you here. Plz keep reading and also comment on Womanatics. My other blog.

  3. Nidhi says:

    It is hard for me to believe that such tribes exist in our country. Why is the administration so conservative about their interacting with the common public, isn’t that hindering the tribe’s progress or breeding frustration among them ?

  4. They do. And Supreme Court of India has ordered to not interact with them and not try to civilize them as tribal welfare associations object to it.

  5. rahul says:

    Well written…”Why did you ask the so-called police man to ask the girls to dance for you?
    If you did, why did you film it?..” honestly i did not think of this…when infact, that shud have ideally been my first response.. for tht matter it shud have idealy been the first reaction of any Indian..

  6. Thanks Rahul.. Yeah..!! I was thinking why didnt we try to bring that firangi to the forefront for doing such a nonsensical thing.

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