This week marks the fifth anniversary of an order by the Supreme Court of India that an Andaman Islands highway, which threatens the lives of the Jarawa tribe, must close. The government has defied the order, and the road remains open.
The 300 Jarawa, who live in the tropical forests of the islands and hunt with bows and arrows, resisted all contact with the outside world until 1998. The road brings poachers and other outsiders into the heart of their territory. With them come exploitation, violence, and diseases to which the Jarawa have no immunity.
Reports indicate that tourist visits to the Jarawa along the road, facilitated by government officials, were on the increase despite the practice being illegal.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination urged India to close the road in a report issued in March. But the local authorities have petitioned the Supreme Court to revoke its order.
Survival International’s director Stephen Corry said today, ‘It is extraordinary that the Indian government has completely ignored the country’s own Supreme Court for five years. This indicates either the absence of any real will to safeguard the Jarawa, or a complete failure to understand the seriousness of the situation in which the existence of the road has placed the tribe. The road must close now before it is too late.’
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