Stone Age Andaman tribe at risk, says report

New Delhi, August 31 :

An isolated jungle tribe that dates back to the Stone Age could be wiped out on islands off India’s eastern coast because they are in danger of losing their habitat and are

being “sexually exploited’’ by outsiders, according to an expert report published yesterday.

The Jarawas, who number 300,live on the Andaman islands, are a group of hunter-gatherers who for more than 60,000 years have lived off the forests and the seas. They only began making contacts with the outside world a decade ago and are hostile to outsiders. They are believed to have come from Africa and have retained a unique culture unshaped by the modern word.

However, encroachment on their land by settlers, reports of police “sexually exploiting’’ Jarawa girls and a new highway is pushing the tribe to the brink of extinction. “A few men and children have started wearing discarded clothes. They have started using currency and doing manual work for settlers,’’ says the report. “What is perhaps disturbing is social crisis that has ensued.’’ The experts point out that young girls have become pregnant and their non-Jarawa offspring have been killed at birth. Such events are a “crisis in the making’’ for the tribe, especially as their isolation has made the Jarawan people prone to infectious diseases.

The report makes it clear that ever-growing number of tourists has exposed tribe to the seamier side of beach holidays. It cites an instance of a photojournalist who had “taken voyeuristic photographs of men and women.”