Tourist films Jarawa on the Andaman Trunk Road

Tourist films Jarawa on the Andaman Trunk Road © Survival

Any attempt to ‘mainstream’ the Jarawa by force would be a disaster, said Survival International, in a statement today. ‘By mainstreaming, what the authorities really mean is the assimilation of the Jarawa into national society,’ said Sophie Grig, Senior Campaigner with Survival.

In the wake of the controversy over ‘human safaris’, both the BJP and the Minister of Tribal Affairs, V Kishore Chandra Deo, have called for the Jarawa to be ‘mainstreamed’, with the Minister reportedly describing the lives of the Jarawa as ‘beastly’.

But forcibly assimilating tribal people into national society has been viewed as unacceptable by the international community for decades. Its catastrophic impact on tribal peoples has been widely acknowledged; no government in the Americas has advocated assimilation for more than thirty years.

Progress Can Kill, a report by Survival International shows that when tribal people around the world have been forced into the ‘mainstream’, rates of disease, depression, addiction and suicide soar.

Survival’s Campaigner Sophie Grig said today, ‘Minister Deo must move away from the idea that tribes will inevitably end up ‘mainstreamed’ or that their life is ‘primitive’ or ‘beastly’. The Jarawa have thrived in their forests for more than 55,000 years – they may be poor in monetary terms but their health and quality of life is visibly better than that of the Great Andamanese tribes who’ve been given the ‘benefits’ of the ‘mainstream’. The Jarawa’s land and its resources must be protected so that they can continue to live in, and from, their forest and only they must decide and control what, if any, ‘developments’ or changes they want’.