THE LIGHT OF ANDAMANS | ISSUE 27 | 17 FEB 2012
Buffer Zone Hearing: Disappointed
The public hearing by the Supreme Court appointed two-member Advocate commission on Buffer Zone case once again exposed the small-mindedness and hollowness of the political setup in the
Islands. Representatives of various political parties and a few organizations converted it into a seminar on Jarawa tribe citing history from 1857 to the present era.
However, the house consensually made it clear that the timing and the venue of the public hearing was inappropriate. They alleged that the Administration should have given ample notice period for the Buffer Zone affected Islanders and they also rued that it should have been apt, had the meeting been arranged somewhere in Middle Andaman, which is the most affected area.
There was no arrangement made by the Director, Tribal Welfare to properly document the opinions of the public and no entries were made about the memorandums and representations submitted by the parties and other organizations.
The whole exercise seemed to be hogwash, with no consequential outcome. The prolonged speeches made by the leaders of the political parties were more about the lifestyle of Jarawas and Andaman Trunk Road and very less about the Buffer Zone.
A BJP representative even alleged that the Buffer Zone had its origin in an unsuccessful negotiation between the Administrator and a Businessman, which was booed by Congress party representatives.
Most of the speakers were in favour of mainstreaming Jarawas rather than opposing Buffer Zone. It made their intentions very clear that their convenience lie in meddling with the lives of Jarawas. Shanta Laxman Singh, said that the Admn had once extended hands of friendship to the Jarawas and now it should not abandon them in mid-way.
Vishal Jolly unconvincingly tried to draw the attention of the Commission towards the Battle of Aberdeen, purportedly fought between British and Andamanese and could not drive his point home. Citing the Census figures he said that Jarawas population has increased 58% whereas the settler population had a meager growth of 8%. He also contended that had the villagers not settled in those areas, poachers would have killed the Jarawas. However, he overlooked the point that the most pristine forest reserve is still the Jarawa Reserve and all other forests under the control of the settlers are plundered to the hilt.
The Commission had to now and then remind the gathering their mandate and their roles. MP Bishnu too made an elaborate speech where he authentically presented many blunders. He wanted the Commission to consider the Master Plan prepared by Awaradi in 1991. He felt that ATR was primarily constructed for the movement of military. He also expressed his fear that If Chinese attacked the
Islands in July, in the absence of ATR, Navy would not be able to sail due to rough weather!
Dr R K Haldar too gave a lengthy speech about the anthropological aspects of Jarawas. Hamid Ali asserted that Jarawas are no more primitive and only Sentinalese are primitive in nature. Although, in favour of mainstreaming Jarawas, he contradicted himself by suggesting that Jarawas should be settled in
, where they will remain uncontacted. Ranjit Kumar Banerjee emphasized that before taking any decision, views of the Jarawas should be sought. South Sentinalese Island
The surprise element of the public hearing was the comeback of Manoranjan Bhakta, Ex-MP after a long period. With all his ailments, he tried to express himself, but his words fumbled and his body could not support his spirit.
Jessy John, proprietor of Dew Dale Resorts, Baratang, which was shut down by the Administration citing Buffer Zone made a genuine and emotional representation before the Commission. She said that the Administration did not extend any help or compensation for the loss she incurred by the abrupt closure of her resort. She also asked Som Naidu, Director, Tribal Welfare, whether he has ever visited her Resort before closure to ascertain whether it falls under Buffer Zone, which did put the Director in a very awkward position.
The public hearing turned into a show of one-upmanship between the political parties forgetting that it's a common issue which required a united voice. If this is the state of our polity, imagine how our Assembly would be!