Thursday, October 23, 2014

Survival International Opposes Documentary on Jarawas

Survival International Opposes Documentary on Jarawas

Organic Jarawa, the documentary film shot by French-duo Alexandre Dereims and Claire Beilvert by trespassing into the Jarawa Reserve, is drawing flak from all quarters especially activists and organizations.

Survival International has opposed the film saying that its against any illegal entry into Jarawa Reserve.

"Survival International is opposed to any illegal entry into the Jarawa's Reserve and has a strict policy against anyone trying to make contact with, or film, un-contacted or recently contacted tribal people," Sophie Grig, Campaigner, Survival International told The Light of Andamans.

"We always tell any journalist or filmmaker that they should not make any attempt to go into the Jarawa Reserve. Therefore we do not support the making or showing of the film, Organic Jarawa," Sophie said opposing the film which in no way helps the cause of Jarawa tribe.

As per the information available on the website of the filmmakers, they had visited the Jarawa Reserve and met the Jarawas several times during the last three years. Andaman and Nicobar Administration has filed a case against the filmmakers.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Jarawa Tragedy: Four Deaths Reported in Three Months. Investigation Still On?

Jarawa Tragedy: Four Deaths Reported in Three Months.
Investigation Still On?

Bureau Report

Kadamtala, Oct. 22: As many as four children of the Jarawa Tribe died during the past three months. The last death was recorded in September 2014 at Tirur. All these children were below the age of one year. The reason gathered is lack of Post Natal Care and administering of expired Allopathic medicines issued by the AAJVS.

While two children belonged to Tirur area, two others died at Punna Nallah and Choudhary Ghumai, inside the Jarawa Tribal Reserve.

“Unless we have a proper report on this from an expert, we cannot come to a conclusion,” said G. Theva Neethi Dhas, IAS, Secretary (Tribal Welfare) in the Andaman & Nicobar Administration.

When AC/LOA tried to investigate into the matter, it was learnt that there was sheer neglect on the part of the AAJVS when it comes to monitoring the health of the Jarawa tribe. All four children had died due to lack of proper post natal care and two among them were victims of expired medicines.

The investigation also revealed that the Jarawa are given medicines by the AAJVS when they complain of minor ailments but there is no proper watch on whether the course of medicines is completed. Documentary evidence revealed the Jarawa members in possession of expired stocks of medicines.

“We are enquiring into it”, said the Secretary Tribal Welfare.

“Being a medical issue, we have to consult a doctor before coming to any conclusion. There are allegations of expired medicines”, said Dhas.   

On being asked to comment on the issue, Dr. Vishwajit Pandya, Honorary Director of Andaman Nicobar Tribal Research Insititute (ANTRI) said he is well aware of the issue. Complaints with documentary evidences of neglect in health care of the tribe had been submitted to the concerned authorities soon after the incident. “Surprisingly nothing much has been done in the case”, Pandya added.

The Jarawa today number above 400 and live in a stretch of Tribal Reserve starting from Constance Bay in South Andaman to Lewis Inlet Bay in Middle Andaman. The death of four children amounts to a loss of one percent of the entire population of the tribe. Had there been a death in the so called civilized society due to neglect on the part of health department, the Andaman Administration under pressure would be forced to conduct Post Mortem examination through a Medical Board.

The loss of one percent of the Jarawa population does not seem to ring a bell among the authorities. This is evident from the kind and pace of enquiry being conducted. The incident is also a glaring example of what the so called civilized world has to offer the voiceless Jarawa of Andaman Islands.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Jarawa Tribal Reserve: A Potemkin Village?

Jarawa Tribal Reserve:
A Potemkin Village?

By Zubair Ahmed

*[Potem'kin vil'lage: a pretentiously showy or imposing fa├žade intended to mask or divert attention from an embarrassing or shabby fact or condition.]

Is everything fine inside the Jarawa Reserve, especially during the last two years, when major steps were taken and stringent laws enacted to contain poaching of Jarawa resources as well as keep a tab on tourists ogling at them in the garb of visiting limestone caves?

Everybody was under the good impression that things are under control, and the syllabus is not yet out of context. However, the perception is deceptive. The constant lip-service did keep them away from the glare of media as well as the activists. Ecological and tribal concerns might have remained at the fore while discussing development, but the system never strained to do anything concrete to translate the concerns on the ground. Nevertheless, bureaucratic approach did enough irreparable damage.

When Alexandre and his team could hoodwink the whole system and enter the Jarawa Reserve, and remain with them undetected and unnoticed for days and weeks, that too several times during last three years, isn't it time to realize that many things are not right, and it might require some kind of willpower to accept the fact and take some bold decisions, without fear or favour.

From police, intelligence, defence, coast guard, forest and tribal dept, nobody had a clue about the Organic Jarawa documentary project, until Alexandre himself revealed it. Isn't it shocking that such kind of breach could be a potent threat to the security perceptions of the territory? Lots of questions can be poised why we were in dark about the incident.

Why such intelligence and security lapse on the side of our defence and police? How porous and vulnerable is our West Coast? Why the operations went undetected by the forest department inside the Reserve? What happened to all the tall talk about the strategic importance of the Islands, when the most sensitive part of the territory, already forbidden to the citizens of the country is wide open for someone who enters unnoticed and does whatever he wants?

In the face of such blatant lapse, how can the Administration claim that the tribe is well protected from evil forces? In fact, Alexandre and his team has proved how weak, our system is. He has proved beyond doubt that the territory is not protected as claimed. Instead of looking out, its time we look inside and plug the holes.

Why is there lack of coordination between different agencies involved? When we poised this question to Prof Vishwajit Pandya, a senior Anthropologist and Hony. Director, ANTRI, he said, “When the defence forces can have a combined command, why can’t the Islands have an “Environmental Force” involving all three agencies – Tribal Welfare, Police and Forest Dept. We need to see the picture in totality and not as separate entities. I had suggested this to the Administration, but the response is not encouraging.”

Whenever a breach is brought to the notice of police or forest by AAJVS, there begins a marathon blame-game. Conflicting interests play crucial role in the outcome, and most interestingly, what the Administrator can do is just appeal them to work in unison to achieve the desired ‘unknown’ goal!

The rhetoric that the Andaman and Nicobar Administration is committed to safeguard the interests of the vulnerable Jarawa tribe is nothing but a charade, or how did four small Jarawa kids lost their lives in the last three-four months, due to negligence of the pharmacist posted with AAJVS? Very strong documentary evidence proves that expired Amoxicillin and other drugs were administered to the tribes, and there were clear carelessness in attending to post-natal care of Jarawa babies, resulting in death. Why no action was taken when the matter was brought to the knowledge of the higher ups?

It’s true that ANTRI is playing a very vital role in redefining the discourse and addressing policy issues, and implementing very unique projects in education (Project Angkatha) and clothing (Project Kangapu) that would show results in the long run. The role of AAJVS in executing the projects designed by ANTRI is also encouraging. But, on the ground, there seems to be disconnect, which is shocking.

The Jarawas could keep the whole Organic Jarawa episode a secret for such a long time literally startles. In fact, the poachers or those collaborators, who helped the film crew holds more influence or the Jarawas trust them more than the AAJVS staff is a fact, which has serious repercussions.

“Normally Jarawas won’t say anything unless asked, and in this case when they got so much goodies from the film crew, they knew what to do,” says Prof. Pandya.

The conviction one can see on the ground does not reflect at the top echelons, which conveniently affects the whole process. Wary to take decisions, and the protracted delay inflicts the system. The suffocating check the bureaucrats exercise on the social workers and the experts will not help in yielding any results. Until and unless the system is liberated from the clutches of babus, whatever we get to see from inside the Reserve would be through some Alexandres, Thiery Falises or Oliver Blaises.

One needs to open eyes and do a reality check or when the bitter facts explode with full force, it would be very late.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Illegal Entry into Reserve to Film Jarawas: Case Filed Against Foreigners and Karen Men

Illegal Entry into Reserve to Film Jarawas:
Case Filed Against Foreigners and Karen Men

By Staff Reporter

In the recent incident of foreigners illegal entry into the Jarawa territory and filming a documentary, Organic Jarawa, cognizance has been taken of the offence based on the complaint lodged by the Andaman Adim Janjati Vikas Samiti (AAJVS), and an FIR has been registered at Mayabunder Police Station on 19 October 2014 under sections 7/8 PAT Regulations 1956, 8(4)/8(B) PAT Amendment Reg. 2012 and 67 IT Act 2010, 3(1)(2) IT Act and 14(A) Foreigners Amendment Act 2004 RN Para 3 of FRA Order 1963.

As per the information provided by a few Jarawas namely Mamul, Modele, Kumar Tatiwenda and Thenga based near Parlobjig No. 10, Kadamtala, Middle Andaman, two foreigner men and a women had entered the Modele Chadda, a Jarawa Camp near Lewis Inlet Bay on West Coast during the last Todala season (March-April 2014) by using a Engine Wooden Dinghie. The foreigners were accompanied by four Karen men namely Bada Sheer (large headed), Uli, Gullu ka Ladka and Natia (dwarf fellow).

The foreigners - Alexandre Dereims and Claire Beilvert, Director and Producer of "Organic Jarawa", a documentary film under post-production expected to be released in 2015 were accompanied by the Karen men and stayed in the Jarawa habitat for one night and day and had engaged in filming the Jarawa men, women and children.

The filmmakers who had illegally entered into the Jarawa Reserve had used many Jarawa families - Ape, Naru, Utta, Muktona, Tete, Chaluhe, Telo, Tahi, Mamul and Modele as cast for filming the documentary.

The accused had provided the Jarawa with sacks of rice, cooking oil, biscuits and other ration materials in lieu of the cooperation extended for the filming process. The complaint also mentions that the Karens were helping the foreigners as interpreters.

As per the FIR, the perpetrators without permission of any competent authority made the video film and interacted with the Jarawas in violation of the provisions under A&N Islands (Protection of Aboriginal Tribes).

The police with the help of AAJVS is investigating the case to ascertain the identities of the Karen men, mentioned by the Jarawa. Two Karen men were identified by the Jarawa today.

According to official sources, the foreigners had stayed at a resort in Mayabunder on 8 March 2014 and checked out on 10 March 2014. Sources informed LOA that foreigners had moved from Mayabunder towards the Modele Chadda with the local support of Karen men.

As per the information available on the website of the filmmakers, they had visited the Jarawa Reserve and met the Jarawas several times during the last three years.