NEW DELHI: An 11-member committtee headed by BSP MP Dara Singh Chauhan had visited the Andaman and Nicobar islands last year and had met members of Jarawa tribe before submitting a report.
Asking the ministry of tribal affairs to “review the policy on Jarawas,’’ the Standing Committee had said that there should be a new policy which would facilitate a “slow and smooth process of transition, ie bringing the Jarawas into the mainstream with minimum damage to the cultural heritage.’’
But Andamans MP Bishu Pada Ray is agitated. “The committee has made it clear that it is high time that the Jarawas are brought out of seclusion and made part of the mainstream. But there has been no forward movement since as Sonia Gandhi and her NGO friends are determined to block it,’’ said Ray alluding to the NAC direction to the tribal affairs ministry to consult the Jarawas before drafting any policy on their future.
According to Ray, who had written a controversial letter in 2010 where he had asked the ministry to ‘wean’ Jarawa children away from the tribe in order to ‘drastically mainstream’ them. He wanted “children in the age group of 6 to 12 years to be weaned away from the tribe and be kept in a normal school atmosphere, where they were very quickly trained in personal hygiene, use of clothes and basic reading and writing skills.’’
Ray, who is still stuck to the point, asks who has given Sonia Gandhi and the NAC the right to decide for the Jarawas. ‘‘When the Jarawas themselves have told the Parliamentary committee that they want to come to the mainstream, what more do they want?,’’ he asked.
“What right does anyone have to say that the Jarawas should be kept as museum pieces? Like each one of us, they too have the right to fruits of modernity,’’ he told Express from Andamans. Ray argues that Jarawas should be brought into the mainstream at the earliest to ensure their survival against the “adverse effects of unregulated contacts with the mainstream.’’
According to him, the number of Jarawas is dwindling every year due to unregulated contacts with outsiders. “Though they are leading an isolated life now officially, the reality is that they are becoming victims of illicit contacts with outsiders. They are also getting criminalized due to this. That is why I am arguing they must be brought into the mainstream rather than leaving them at the mercy of intruders,’’ he said.
Experts, however, feel that the mainstreaming of Jarawas is quite “challenging’’ than it looks. Both arguments — the one who argues for mainstreaming and the other which argues for insulated protection — have their own merits and demerits. “There is no Yes or No answer for the question on whether the Jarawas should be brought to the mainstream or not. If retaining them as museum pieces is wrong, then sudden exposure is equally wrong,’’ said Dr A Justin, who heads the Anthropological Survey of India (ASI) office in Port Blair.
According to him, there has been no proper assessment of “what Jarawas want’’ has been done so far and ASI is now in the process of doing it. “No matter what, the most important thing to be remembered in the context of any primitive tribe is that they have their own stream of life... It must be left to the Jarawas to decide what they want,’’ he added.