'Jarawas experts of their own land' : Survival International

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Port Blair, Apr 30 (UNI) London-based Survival International, who are fighting for the rights of the Jarawa tribes of Andaman, today said other people's notions of development should not be applied on them since the Jarawas are experts of their own land. ''The mind-set that Jarawas are poor and illiterate must be changed as the community is expert of their own land,'' Sopie Grig, an activist of Survival International told UNI.

Grig, who is presently visiting the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands to assess the ground reality regarding Jarawa tribe, said they must be able to make their own decisions about their future and their way of life.

''They must be able to choose which parts of their way of life they wish to keep as also which parts of outside society they wish to adopt, without being given a false impression of what they can expect from life outside the forest,'' Girg added.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands are home to six primitive indigenous tribes, including the hunter-gatherer Jarawa, who are believed to be at a very crucial stage of their development due to their regular interaction with civilized society.

Survival International had been campaigning for the rights of Jarawa Tribes and creating international pressure on Andaman and Nicobar Administration to close the Andaman Trunk Road, the lone highway of Andaman, which cut through the Jarawa Tribal reserve.

''I think that the Andaman Trunk Road must be closed. Because of the road the tribes are coming in contact with the outside world which in turn results in epidemic and other deceases,'' the Survival activists added.

Survival is also demanding that staff working with the Jarawa should be highly trained and aware of the situation of other recently contacted tribal peoples around the world.

She said any changes must take place slowly and only at the initiative of the Jarawas, as too much contact too quickly could rapidly lead to diseases, a break down in the Jarawa's way of life, and their confidence in their own abilities.

''It is not inevitable that the Jarawa should join the mainstream.

Like the Enawene Nawe tribes, they too can thrive as independent and self-confident people on their own land,'' she added.

The Jarawa are one of the indigenous people of the Andaman Islands. Their present numbers are estimated at a little over 300.

UNI SKR PL RL AS1558

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