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Government seeks report on Andaman tribals dancing for food

Wednesday January 11, 2012 05:38:42 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The government Wednesday sought a report from the administration in the Andaman islands after a shocking video clip released by a leading British newspaper showed semi-naked women from the endangered Jarawa tribe dancing for food before tourists on human safaris.

The union home ministry has asked the authorities in the union territory to probe the veracity of the video showing women from the tribe, who have inhabited the Andaman Islands for thousands of years, being exploited.

Sources in the ministry said Home Minister P. Chidambaram during his pre-scheduled visit to the union territory Jan 21 will take up the issue with the local administration.

Andaman police, however, said the video seemed to have been shot a good 10 years ago.

Andaman police chief S.B. Deol said whoever shot the video has violated the rules and will have to face action. "It is obvious that it is the videographer who is breaking the law of the land and who is inciting the tribals to dance," the police chief said in a statement.

The Guardian posted on its website the footage filmed by a tourist guide in which an official in uniform orders the women to dance because he had given them food.

The journalist, Gethin Chamberlain, who was part of the crowd to expose the alleged exploitation, said the uniformed person was a policeman who had taken a bribe of 200 pounds to arrange the dance.

But the police chief refuted the allegations that police took bribes to take tourists to the Jarawa reserve. "He is wearing a camouflage in the video. Police don't wear camouflage," Deol said in a televised interview.

Terming the incident "obnoxious and disgusting", Tribal Affairs Minister V. Kishore Chandra Deo told TV channels that people responsible for such acts should be punished.

"It is disgraceful if something like this is happening. It ... cannot be pardoned. It deserves exemplary punishment," Deo said.

Law and Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid also advocated strict action against those responsible for forcing tribal women to dance.

The 400-plus tribe has lived in the Andaman islands for thousands of years. But they came in contact with the outside recently. Its members are trusting, innocent and vulnerable to exploitation, living in a jungle reserve on south Andaman.

In an attempt to reduce contact and prevent the tribes-people from being exploited, the authorities have cut the number of convoys to the area to eight a day. But the road to the area can't be completely closed because of a 2002 Supreme Court order.

Anthropologists believe that the Jarawa people are descendants of some of the first humans to move out of Africa. They live a simple life and hunt pigs and turtles for food with bows and arrows. Their women gather fruit and honey.








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