Increasing trespassing, poaching in Andaman’s tribal reserves may wipe out the natives (August 9 is International Day of the Indigenous Peoples)
New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) With increasing incidents of poaching, trespassing and negligible patrolling around the habitats of recently contacted and un-contacted tribal groups of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, experts fear that this can lead to the extinction of the natives.
According to the officials, one habitual poacher, earlier also accused of sexually assaulting members of Jarawa tribe, was arrested earlier this month and later granted bail.
The poacher was identified by Andaman Police as Narayan Sujoy.
According to local sources, the poacher had been arrested nine times for offences including poaching sea turtles and allegedly harassing the Jarawas living in the tribal reserves that stretche through the southern and central part of the main Andaman Island.
“Such incidents are reported from time to time from Jarawa habitats, though not very often… the accused is out on bail, though we tried that he was not granted one,” Navlendra Kumar Singh, Director, Tribal welfare, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told IANS.
According to Stephen Corry, Director of Survival International, the Jarawas cannot remain as a healthy and self-sufficient community if their resources are not protected.
In a letter to the Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Corry has also urged him to investigate how one poacher can be allowed to repeatedly commit offenses without being prosecuted, in direct violation of the regulations.
Local sources and activists claim that such incidents around Jarawa reserves are increasing but very few are reported.
“There are many incidents this year. Crabs, wild boar, turtles etc are often poached, and the offenders manage to get bail and get back in the business,” Denis Giles, editor of the Andaman Chronicle, told IANS.
According to the local police, a recent case of poaching is sub-judice.
“The case of poacher is going in the court… we can’t comment any further,” an official from the Superintendent of Police’s office told IANS. On being asked about the acts and charges imposed on the poachers and number of incidents, the officer asked for an email for further queries.
In 2014, for the first time a Jarawa man made an audio-clip complaint regarding poaching incidents and harassment of the the people of his tribal group by some poachers. He also spoke of 20 regular poachers who also sexually harassed the Jarawa girls, poached their resources and introduced marijuana and alcohol among the natives.
The Andaman and Nicobar islands are home to six tribes, of which Negito tribes include the Great Andamanese, Onge, Jarawa and Sentinelese. The other two are Mongoloid tribes, Nicobarese and Shompen, who live in the Nicobar island.
There are about 300 Jarawas, 100 Onges and 300 Shompens left. Another tribe called Jangil or Rutland Jarawa became extinct around 1920. Only the Nicobarese maintain a comparatively good population with 30,000 members.
Meanwhile, the unguarded Sentinel Island — home to Sentinelese, the most isolated tribe of the world, is also giving tribal campaigners and experts a reason to worry.
Estimated to be a tribe of 50 to 200 persons, their island is situated 58 km from Port Blair. They were never even contacted by the Negito or Mongoloid tribes.
“We speculate that people go near Sentinel Island but don’t have evidence. I even questioned the police regarding this,” Navlendra Kumar Singh said.
He added that regular patrolling in the area around Wandoor, the most convenient way to reach the Sentinel from the main Andaman Island, could ensure that no unwanted incident like poaching happens there.
(Kushagra Dixit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)