Monday, October 7, 2013

Jarawa 'Circus' Boomerangs

Jarawa 'Circus' Boomerangs

By Zubair Ahmed

With the arrest of three poachers from Kadamtala under PAT Regulation, 1956, a new modern-day Enmei myth has been busted. It was widely reported in local and national media that a group of ten Jarawa youth out of hunger and desperation had ventured out of the forest and met the Gram Pradhan demanding food, school and a rendezvous with the Lieutenant Governor and Deputy Commissioner. As per the report, they had a huge list of demands ready.

As per the release issued by ANI Admn, on 03 Oct 2013, 10 Jarawas had reached Kadamtala Panchayat office demanding rice and eatables besides meeting with govt. officials. As per enquiry conducted by AAJVS authorities, some persons had gone into Jarawa habitat Hocha Botha (western coast) and stayed for 02 days for hunting. Further, they provided the Jarawas with rice, cooking oil and other eatables etc. instigated them to meet the Pradhan for food and other items.

During investigation the accused persons namely Maharaja Bala @ raja, Surender @ Surin and Rahul Mondal, all three residents of Kadamtala, have been arrested. All three have been remanded to 14 days judicial custody.

These persons were found to be habitual intruders into the Jarawa Reserve Area and it is learnt that they used to supply alcoholic substances to Jarawas.

However, the story does not end there. On 2 Oct 2013, Maharaja Bala, a blacksmith by profession and a regular poacher had invited the Jarawas to his house, which is on the fringes of the Reserve. About ten Jarawa youth instigated by Maharaja came to his house and stayed the whole night. Maharaja, always wanted to sell his wares to Jarawas, and kept instigating them against the quality of iron implements supplied by the Tribal Welfare Department. He had also added a demand to their list saying that they require the services of a blacksmith to repair their implements.

The Pradhan of the village, Sampat Kumar Roy too joined them and tutored them what to say. According to reliable sources, both Maharaja and Sampat had brought two bottles of liquor (On Gandhi Jayanti, a dry day) and served the Jarawas. "Liquor will give you enough strength to be bold to face the officers," they were reportedly told. Sampath had also asked them not to budge to any kind of appeasement and not board any vehicle, if AAJVS staff asked them to.

It is also learnt that two more poachers, Swapan Biswas and Suresh were also accompanying the Jarawas on the night of 2 October. Both of them are absconding.

Its intriguing why the Pradhan Sampath Kumar Roy, the ringmaster of the circus has been let off. He is very vocal about mainstreaming of Jarawas, which is not a crime, but he was also present at Maharaja's house, that too with a bottle of liquor and tutored them how to perform in front of the officers. Misled and misguided, the Jarawas parroted the lines taught to them. It is also learnt that Jarawas have now realized their mistake and are also on the lookout for the poachers, who misbehaved with them. "We will beat them if we get them,' Affee, the Jarawa youth told the source.

There are many messiahs of the Jarawas who are in a haste to bring them into the mainstream, for their own advantage. Speaking to LOA, a senior anthropologist said that settlers have always felt Jarawa to be an hindrance in their development and wants them to be settled in one of the uninhabited Islands. "They are eyeing their land and resources," he said.

The welfare of the Jarawas and their territory has been entrusted to three agencies - AAJVS, Police and Forest Dept. In a seminar organised by Anthropological Survey of India (ASI), Secretary Tribal Welfare had mentioned that the Admn has already identified a few hotspots where interactions and barters with the Jarawas take place. However, lack of proper coordination between the three agencies have resulted in many such excesses in the tribal reserves. A report by one of the Expert Committee on Jarawa Policy had mentioned that rice has already found inroad into Jarawa lifestyle.

In Tirur, Wright Myo and Kadamtala, poachers frequently venture into Jarawas Reserves for hunting deer and wild boars, depleting their resource base. Recently, a Dinghi was captured in Wright Myo in which forest dept seized about 8 deers - out which five were alive. Although, the Dinghi was seized there were no arrests made. The modus operandi of the forest beat staff is to let off the perpetrators and only seize the contraband. Large scale timber poaching is also reported from all these areas. In another incident which was reported by LOA, a group of forest staff who had ventured into the Reserve to extract cane and ballies were ambushed by the Jarawas and all their belongings were snatched.

Many such incidents are in the knowledge of forest officials, but no action is ever taken. It is also learnt that the welfare officers looking after the Jarawas have time and again reported about poachers in villages who frequent the Reserve and set traps to catch wild boar and deer.

Recently, police had booked cases against fishermen who were found fishing inside the Buffer Zone. Although, PAT regulations have been made stringent, due to non-application, poachers freely carry out their misdemeanors. PAT Regulation prescribes stringent punishment of imprisonment up to 7 years.

Unless the hotspots are plugged properly and tight watch on poachers in the villages increased, interaction between Jarawas and Settlers cannot be checked. As of now, there are 408 Jarawas in Tirur, Middle Strait and Kadamtala, and the resource base is sufficient for them, only if it is protected from the poachers. It is not the Jarawas who are venturing out to mingle with the Settlers, but its the other way round, which requires awareness as well as implementation of the stringent laws, as tweeted by the Lieutenant Governor.

It is very unfortunate that the villagers/settlers living in the fringes of Tribal reserves are ignorant about the history and lives of Jarawas. It is high time that knowledge about the tribes and their rights to life, land and livelihood are incorporated in the school curriculum so that at least the next generation does not carry the notion that the so-called 'junglees' are a nuisance and hindrance in the march of progress and development.


Shahid Meshack said...

It's commendable on your part to speak your mind on the Jarawa's plight. Thankfully our media too took a sudden U turn on the issue one way or the other and it augments well for the Jarawa cause. AK7CAV too appeared a bit stuck up by the onslaught of Survival and co on twitter. Nonetheless things have gone well for him by his Admn's rearguard actions on present developments. People like HDC with lack of basic knowledge on ground reality appeared like empty vessels rattling needlessly. From time immemorial a handful of supporters for the Jarawa's existence have out reasoned countless ATR and mainstreaming propaganda machinery hands down. This is because of greater understanding of the importance of Jarawa's existence for our so called Civilized society and sound reasoning by the Tribes Conservation Lobby. Plight of this civilized propaganda machinery appears pitiable because some of them consider the present Administrator unaware of the Jarawa Saga or the court rulings and have tried to guide AK7CAV into something out of the box which could be politically rewarding viz a viz the settlers. It has been pointed out on innumerable occasions in the past that the Jarawas will take centre stage whenever we try to bury their issue time and again. Administration is virtually helpless in safeguarding the Jarawa's interest and it is because of lack of political and administrative will. Every ruling by the courts gets misinterpreted and implemented in a way leaving gaping holes for the offenders to exploit. Jarawa's have been one of the biggest draw for tourism in the Islands and it harms them no end. Convoy or not the tour operators will find ways to infringe on their privacy and rights to peaceful existence. For Poachers its a livelihood issue and they would venture in again with novel means and ideas. Policy's and regulations look good on paper, unless we have dedicated people having a long term vision and themselves being stakeholders of the cause; implementing these would not bring about any change on the ground. For politicians and opportunist islanders, Jarawa's control huge unexplored land and other resources which needs to be harnessed even if it means confining the Jarawa's to some few sqaure kms in a remote small Island. A&N Tribal Research Institute grandly announced appears to be a set up for exploiting local know-how by imported experts to further their own Anthropological cravings and greater fame. Unhindered access to the oldest living human race in the world in their original avatar would make people famous and rich. Some of the names in the panel of this institute have track record of doing just that in the past and would continue to do so in future too. ANTRI would be alien to the Islanders as Psuedo intellectuals will control it. We have greater experts of local origin in our own AAJVS who need to be encouraged to document their know along with better remuneration than imports. Villagers around the reserve are to be involved more in the Jarawa conservation and sensitized. People of ANI can save this human heritage

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