Thursday, November 17, 2011

PAUPER’S LOG Islanders- Guinea Pigs or Baits



Islanders- Guinea Pigs or Baits

By Abu Arsh

Great stories abound about our Islands and its inhabitants since time immemorial. Great Andamanis, Junglis, Onges, Jarawas, Sentinelese in the Andaman group, Nicobaries and Shompens in the Nicobar groups are supposedly the original inhabitants of these Islands. The colonizers came and wiped off indigenous people's entire race, language and culture. They saw in the Islands opportunities of controlling trade and commerce and expanded the might of their far away empires. These colonizers came with their own bunch of slaves called penal settlers and convicts to make the islands worthy of setting up a colony. They were forced to clear marshes and creeks infested with deadly mosquitoes and crocodiles, only to be gobbled up. Many convicts perished, only to be replaced by newer bunch to satisfy the ever increasing land grabbing appetite of the Raj. Soon the Japanese with similar designs took on the fair skinned colonizers and thwarted their might. These fair skinned colonizers regrouped as Allied Forces and over threw the yellow skinned Japanese before handing it over to us. Japanese atrocities and the Raj's apartheid rekindled patriotic and nationalistic pride in whatever was left of the brown penal settlers, who by now have forgotten much about their existence elsewhere under the Raj. The gora sahibs were replaced by the bhura sahibs and the degradation went on. Brown sahibs saw in these Islands, individuals and families all deeply entrenched in Sahib worshipping. These inhabitants were to be very soon out numbered by new economic migrants. They built our buildings and roads, cut our forests, mined our sand and stone, cropped our land, supplied our provisions, provided us services and worked our offices. They made way for constant stream of kith and kin to come, assimilate and outnumber the locals. They set up businesses, properties and plantations on government dole outs. The present day Sahibs are posted for smaller stints and go back after looting whatever is left in these Islands to loot. Politics, socio- economic conditions, trade and commerce have changed. Numbers and money rules the roost. Present generations of penal settlers are now paper tigers and known to be great leg pullers of their own clan. A handful of indigenous people who survived ethnic cleansing are now exhibits for duped tourists.
Based on this history if we look ahead to the future, it's highly unlikely that Andaman and Nicobar will ever be what it ought to be. Over several decades all we hear are same old stories of development and prosperity for the islands' inhabitants. Agriculture, livestock, water, transportation, power, education, health, infrastructure and every other basic amenity has not improved. Whatever little has come about; it's due to technological advancement and not by wishful planning of the sahibs. A paper recently said- "There needs to be a change in India's attitude towards Andaman and Nicobar. The islands should be viewed as the first line of defence. The main aim of India in Andaman and Nicobar region should be to assess the threats from China and Pakistan and build measures to counter them. India has not fully realized the importance of the 10 Degree Channel and 6 Degree Channel, while China is fully aware of the importance of these two important trade routes. The isolated location of these islands is the major problem that India faces. A highly efficient surveillance network is a must to monitor non-conventional threats. More manpower and modernization of equipment is a must.
People are as vital an aspect as they can be in the region and genuine attention needs to be paid to grievances of the tribal people of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
Biological threats, diseases like, malaria, Andaman fever etc. should also be considered as part of non-conventional threats."  Our track record over several decades show such complex issues won't be resolved when our intentions and basics are wrong. Whom to entrust this task, the same system that has failed to count us- showing virtually no increase in our numbers over a decade,  which assumes we are all green, which cannot give us clean and sufficient water nor can prevent us from dying of simple vector borne diseases or fix our broken limbs or damaged organs here. We still generate power by the engines our grandparents bought, we cannot bring down unemployment and poverty, travel is not affordable. We have been just planning to build free ports or bridges for decades, we cannot impart technical education to our children here nor curb illegal land grab. At times it makes one wonder where we fit in the nation's conscious- Are we Guinea Pigs or Baits for the State or potential threats.

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