Position and size of the population
These indigenous Andaman islanders have long been isolated from the rest of the world. The Jarawa people belong to the pygmy peoples of Asia. They have the same attributes as other Negrito tribes and are mostly hunter-gatherers. Jarawas first populated the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal around 26,000 years ago. The first foreigners who contacted the Jarawa people in the 18th Century discovered that there are about five Jarawa tribes with a total population of about 7,000 Jarawa living in the Andaman islands at that time. However, today there are only around 400 to 450 Jarawas left. External contact has brought diseases that have killed most of these people in the 19th Century, and a more recent outbreak of measles has further diminished their numbers.
The Jarawa tribes of the Andaman Islands each speak a different language. As a result, they do not understand each other, although they all allegedly descend from an original tribe called Jangil. In 1931, the last of the Jangils died in the Andamans and today is considered extinct. The Jarawa speak languages that belong to the Ongan and Great Andamese language family. A unique language has also been identified among those, and given the name Sentinelese. However, these tribes have long refused contact with any strangers. A number of linguists think that the Jarawa languages are related to the Papuan languages or the Austronesian-Ongan language family.
Ways of life
The Jarawa were initially very hostile to outsiders and killed anyone who ventured into their territory. Today, however, they are more relaxed in the company of strangers. The Jarawa have lived in the Andaman region for thousands of years and have maintained their lifestyle as hunter-gatherers. They use wooden bows, arrows and harpoons to hunt fish, turtles and wild pigs that share their habitat. They also love honey, which they collect by climbing up tall trees. The recent bad influence of tourists and motorists entering their ancestral lands in Andaman has changed their existence. Now, many Jara are asking for food from these intruders.
The 19th Century brought close contact with the British, who established settlements in Andaman. Along with the strangers came diseases, alcohol and opium. Even the Indian and Burmese settlers settled on the islands, although the Jarawa were always hostile to these intruders. However, in 1998, the Jarawas began to establish friendly contacts with the settlers who lived near their lands. The construction of the Andaman Trunk Road in the 1970s increased external contacts with tourists and other settlers. However, this also brought other diseases and problems to the Jarawa. Alcohol, marijuana and sexual abuse by outsiders have worsened the situation of the Jarawa. The Indian government has examined the issue, particularly after complaints from local pro-Jarawa Indian organizations have been filed with the
Threats in progress
Today the threats to the Jarawa people are fought in the Andaman Islands and in the courts of Calcutta, which have jurisdiction over the Andaman Islands. Tourists brought by safari agencies for guided tours involving Jarawas are prohibited, but nothing has been done about it. A resort was recently built near Jarawa’s ancestral lands, but the court case was won in favor of the resort owner. There has been an increase in poaching of animals in Jarawa hunting grounds by outsiders and illegal land settlements on the ancestral lands of Jarawa. These violations have hit the Jarawa people’s food sources, but the courts have done little to stop these illegal activities